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Terry Allen

Lubbock (On Everything)

    Legendary Texan artist Terry Allen occupies a unique position straddling the frontiers of country music and visual art; he has worked with everyone from Guy Clark to David Byrne to Lucinda Williams, and his artwork resides in museums worldwide. Widely acclaimed as a masterpiece, his deeply moving (and hilarious) satirical second album, a complex memory palace to his West Texas hometown Lubbock, is often cited as the urtext of alt-country. Produced in collaboration with the artist and meticulously remastered from the original analog tapes, this is the definitive edition: the first to correct the tape speed inconsistencies evident on all prior versions; the first U.S. vinyl reissue; the first CD to restore the full track listing; and the first to contextualize the record within Allen’s 50-year career. Deluxe 2LP package includes tip-on gatefold jacket with lyrics, printed inner sleeves, download code, and 28 pp. book with related artwork and photos, an oral history by Allen, and essays by David Byrne, Lloyd Maines, and PoB. 2×CD edition features replica jacket, sleeves, and tipped-in 52 pp. book. Just four years separate Terry Allen’s first and second albums and consecutive masterpieces, Juarez (1975) and Lubbock (on everything) (1979), but the two records inhabit completely different systems of worldbuilding, wildly divergent in terms of sonics, scope, and circumstance. Arguably Allen’s most widely beloved and most easily approachable album—it contains his 2 best-known and most covered songs, “Amarillo Highway (for Dave Hickey)” and “New Delhi Freight Train” (famously first recorded by Little Feat)—Lubbock (on everything) is his complex memory palace to his West Texas hometown. Compared to its sparsely produced predecessor, it represents a much more collaborative, even collective, effort with a local Lubbock studio band, complete with rhythm section, pedal steel, fiddle, and horns, and helmed by master guitarist Lloyd Maines, who became Terry’s frequent musical partner, producer, and the de facto bandleader of the Panhandle Mystery Band. Even if Allen’s music is more accurately described as art-country, Lubbock (on everything) sowed the seeds of alt-country’s emergence a decade later. 

    Terry Allen And The Panhandle Mystery Band

    Just Like Moby Dick

      Iconic and iconoc lastic Texan songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen’s heartbreaking, hilarious new album, his first set of new songs since 2013’s Bottom of the World, features the full Panhandle Mystery Band, including co-producer Charlie Sexton (Dylan, Bowie, Blaze), Shannon McNally, and Jo Harvey Allen; mainstays Bukka Allen, Richard Bowden, and Lloyd Maines; and co-writes with Joe Ely and Dave Alvin. The connections to Melville’s masterpiece are metaphorical and allusive, as elusive as the White Whale. The masterly spiritual successor to Lubbock (on everything), Just Like Moby Dick casts its net wide for wild stories, depicting, among other monstrous things, Houdini in existential crisis, the death of the last stripper in town, bloodthirsty pirates (in a pseudo-sequel to Brecht and Weill’s “Pirate Jenny”), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (in the “American Childhood” suite), a vampire-infested circus, mudslides and burning mobile homes, and all manner of tragicomic disasters, abandonments, betrayals, bad memories, failures, and fare-thee-wells.

      Just Like Moby Dick, his first set of new songs since 2013’s Bottom of the World, takes its title from the archetypal monster of American literature and the American imaginary. (Coincidentally—or not—his label Paradise of Bachelors also takes its name from a Herman Melville story.) “Memory shot her crystals as the clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights,” Melville writes, and for most of the novel, Moby Dick himself remains hidden, haunting Ahab as a crystalline monster of fathomless memory, a terrible fever dream from the depths. The whale remains a specter on Allen’s record too, appearing explicitly only in the briny final line of the last song “Sailin’ On Through,” and on the artist’s Side D vinyl etching and CD insert drawings, where he lurks menacingly beneath the roiling seas of Thomas Chambers, the 19th-century maritime painter whose floridly freaky nautical scenes adorn the album jacket.

      The connections to Melville’s 1851 masterpiece are metaphorical and allusive, as elusive as the White Whale. The masterly spiritual successor to widely acknowledged art-country classic Lubbock (on everything) (1979), Just Like Moby Dick casts its net wide for wild stories, depicting, among other monstrous things, Houdini in existential crisis (“Houdini Didn’t Like the Spiritualists”), “The Death of the Last Stripper” in town, bloodthirsty pirates (in a pseudo-sequel to Brecht and Weill’s “Pirate Jenny”), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (in the “American Childhood” suite), a vampire-infested circus (in “City of the Vampires”), mudslides and burning mobile homes (“Harmony Two”), and all manner of tragicomic disasters, abandonments, betrayals, bad memories, failures, and fare-thee-wells. It begins graveside, with Houdini alone with his ectoplasmic doubts in “the silence of the night” (another “noiseless twilight”). It ends with death too, old friends fading into “ashes, dust, and songs.

      RIYL: David Byrne, Guy Clark, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Silver Jews, Sturgill Simpson, Townes Van Zandt.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      2xDeluxe LP Info: Moby Dick etching artwork on side 4.

      2xDeluxe LP includes MP3 Download Code.

      Itasca

      Spring

        In the fall of 2017, a year after the release of her acclaimed 2016 album Open to Chance, Kayla Cohen, the songwriter and guitarist who records and performs as Itasca, left her home in Los Angeles to live and write for two seasons in a century-old adobe house in rural New Mexico (pictured on the album cover). More urgent escape than fanciful escapade, the move from one Southwestern desert to another resulted from a set of dire circumstances, both personal and societal, not least of which was the sense, shared by many, that a sinister cabal of impaired lunatics had irredeemably poisoned the already sour well of our American discourse. She decided to drop out and dive deeper—hiking into the mountains, through fragrant juniper and piñon forests, past groves of golden cottonwoods, to the source of what she calls in the song “Cornsilk” with a nod to poet Clayton Eshleman “the canyoned river.” Inspired by the landscape and history of the Four Corners region, the resulting album, the sublime Spring—its title summoning both season and scarce local water sources—dowses a devotional path to high desert headwaters.

        Cohen followed some heavy footprints across the Sandia and Sangre de Cristo ranges. In the long American tradition of lighting out for the territories, many artists, particularly visual artists including Terry Allen, Georgia O’Keefe, Agnes Martin, Walter de Maria, Bruce Nauman, and Susan Rothenberg have famously sought refuge and inspiration in the Land of Enchantment. Captivating landscapes and the astonishing biodiversity aside (outside), foot-thick adobe walls provide a security and shelter insulation and isolation that can be hard to find in LA. With her studies of New Mexico’s long history and seismic geological and cultural changes, Cohen sought something different, more ancient—a hearth, a retreat from the noisy and noisome city, yes, but also a deeper historical understanding of urbanity and community, landscape and loss. (Chaco Canyon’s massive architectural complexes ranked as the largest buildings in North America until the late 19th century.)

        Her investigations bore bright fruit in the form of an interpretive travelogue: Spring, suffused with mystery and a keenly evoked sense of place, contains Cohen’s most quietly dazzling, coherent, and self-assured set of songs to date. Having withdrawn from and returned to the city, she sounds more like herself than ever before. In the context of the album’s bolder arrangements, her gorgeous, lambent voice and helical fingerstyle guitar plumb new depths of expressivity, confidence, and wonder. Inflected with flourishes recalling the ’70s orchestrated concept albums from which it draws influence, Spring resembles an archeological excavation of
        Cohen’s own encanyoned style. She recorded unhurriedly, in piecemeal fashion, with various collaborators: first to two-inch tape at Minbal studio in Chicago, with Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas) engineering; then to quarter-inch tape at home, with a Tascam 388; and finally overdubbing at Tropico in Los Angeles, with Greg Hartunian. Daniel Swire (drums), Kayla’s bandmate in Gun Outfit, and Marc Riordan (piano) of Sun Araw provided the exquisitely delicate rhythm section; Dave McPeters once again contributed lightning-field flashes of pedal steel; and James Elkington arranged the subtly cinematic strings (played by Jean Cook.) Chris Cohen mixed, imparting some of his signature classic pop dynamics, which press beyond the sonic realm of the solitary singer-songwriter.

        If Open to Chance felt moonlit, spectral and spooky, Spring sounds positively auroral, luminous, a brisk early morning walk through lucid daylit dreams, a series of vivid visions in thrall to the dusty New Mexican terrain. By opening themselves to multivalent interpretations, these generous, sun-dappled songs hide nothing. An intentional narrative of discovery connects the sequence, from the beckoning highway apparition in “Lily,” through the immersion in the “Blue Spring” dug deep into the recesses of a cliffside cave, to the resigned farewell of “A’s Lament” (which ends, poignantly, with a blessing to a departed friend: “I just want you to be free”). Elsewhere the links to Cohen’s research are oblique, more atmospheric and impressionistic than explicit. She carefully claims no authority or answers, but instead offers a traveler’s tranquil observation and wide-eyed reflection, weaving together her questions about the relationships between the land and the Ancestral Puebloan culture that shaped it with her questions about her own cultural and ecological bearings. Lead single “Bess’s Dance” provides a metaphorical key to the record’s concept, with a glimpse of the Basketmaker culture’s woven artifacts, functional art objects that so fascinated Cohen that she found herself dreaming their patterns:

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        LP Info: Deluxe LP edition features 140g vinyl; heavy-duty sleeve, insert with lyrics & download code.

        Red River Dialect

        Abundance Welcoming Ghosts

          Whilst touring during 2018 in support of Broken Stay Open Sky, their 4th album, Red River Dialect uncovered a new depth of communication in their playing, and the follow-up bears the fruit. Abundance Welcoming Ghosts finds the British folk-rock band relaxing into a natural, playful confidence. It was recorded at Mwnci Studios (Southwest Wales), during 4 days in 2018, just a month before the band’s songwriter David Morris left the UK for a 9 month meditation retreat at a remote Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia. By the time the band reached the studios, the imminent hiatus lent a poignant and celebratory atmosphere to the sessions. The compositions had not been fully formed prior to recording, but any pressure was transmuted into invigoration, resulting in the jubilant energy that adorns even the most turbulent songs. This expansiveness bears testament to the skill of long-term collaborator and guide Jimmy Robertson (Michael Chapman), who engineered and mixed the songs. Guest musicians Joan Shelley, who sings the hidden spaces on “Snowdon” and “Piano,” and Tara Jane O’Neil (Rodan, the Sonora Pine), who plays sweet aching slide guitar on “My Friend,” complement the core sextet. Ed Sanders’ violin alternates between soaring with crisp highland sadness on “BV Kistvaen” and burying jaws into the flesh of songs like “Salvation.”


          Coral Kindred-Boothby’s bass swings the anchor in deep blue fathoms, but frequently dances up to the clouds; she sings heart-swelling, radiant harmonies on “My Friend.” Lead guitarist Simon Drinkwater weaves spry and subtle lines just under the surface of the ocean, breaking for gasps of air and bicycle kicks, slicing the air on “Snowdon” and “Blue Sparks.” Kiran Bhatt rides the drums out to all the cardinal points, tapping high bright stars on “Piano” and pulsing with the circular tide on “Two White Carp.” Robin Stratton has one hand rummaging in the swamp around “Red River” and the other under a waterfall on “Slow Rush”; his piano and organ playing flow like water into both rhythm and lead roles.The thread of mourning that has long held sway in Morris’ songwriting, particularly on 2015’s Tender Gold and Gentle Blue, is not fully unravelled. There are familiar questions about allegiances to caution and pensiveness, but the songs edge ever closer to abandoning restraints, including the desire to achieve coherence in meaning as some form of salvation. Regarding the title, he points to a quote attributed to the eleventh century Tibetan spiritual master Machig Labdrön, 

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP Info: Deluxe Ghost-white indies only vinyl.

          Jake Xerxes Fussell

          Out Of Sight

            On his third and most finely wrought album yet, guitarist, singer, and master interpreter Fussell is joined for the first time by a full band featuring Nathan Bowles (drums), Casey Toll (bass), Nathan Golub (pedal steel), Libby Rodenbough (violin, vocals), and James Anthony Wallace (piano, organ). An utterly transporting selection of traditional narrative folksongs addressing the troubles and delights of love, work, and wine (i.e., the things that matter), collected from a myriad of obscure sources and deftly metamorphosed, Out of Sight contains, among other moving curiosities, a fishmonger’s cry that sounds like an astral lament (“The River St. Johns”); a cotton mill tune that humorously explores the unknown terrain of death and memory (“Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues”); and a fishermen’s shanty/gospel song equally concerned with terrestrial boozing and heavenly transcendence (“Drinking of the Wine”). Jake has written a fascinating essay, about the nine songs he chose and his journey to them (available on the PoB website).

            Like all things having to do with traditional music, there are multiple sources for these songs, many layers of transmission and interpretation. “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues” I heard from my friend Art Rosenbaum, who learned it from a Pete Seeger recording from the late ’40s. I first heard the Irish tragicomedy “Michael Was Hearty” via my pal Nathan Salsburg, guitar wizard and curator of the Alan Lomax Archive, who played me a YouTube video of an Irish Traveller and ballad singer named Thomas McCarthy, whose a cappella delivery of the song is striking and singular. “Oh Captain” is my bastardized reinterpretation of a beautiful deckhand’s song recorded by the singer, composer, and musicologist Willis Laurence James for Paramount Records in the early 1920s. In the mid-2000s when I was living in Oxford, Mississippi, I went to an estate sale at an antebellum house in town and found a first edition of Carl Sandburg’s famous 1927 book The American Songbag, which contains “Three Ravens.”

            The great ballad singer and collector Bobby McMillon, of western North Carolina, has recorded a fine version of “The Rainbow Willow” under the title “Locks and Bolts,” the more common title. My friends Sally Anne Morgan and Sarah Louise (aka House and Land) have also recorded a beautiful rendering. I combined various versions from the Ozarks into the one that I sing, but the story is pretty much the same. “The River St. Johns” comes straight from one of Stetson Kennedy’s Florida WPA recordings of a gentleman named Harden Stuckey doing his interpretation of a fishmonger’s cry, which he recalls from a childhood memory. “Jubilee” is from the great Jean Ritchie’s family tradition. Her father probably sang it as more of a play-party type piece, or at least that’s what Art Rosenbaum tells me, but it’s taken on different forms since. “Drinking of the Wine” is a spiritual number, you might could say. The version to which I’m most faithful is one that was recorded by a group of Virginia menhaden fishermen singing it as a net-hauling shanty on a boat off the coast of New Jersey in the early 1950s. “16–20” is my very loose rearrangement of a tune that I’ve known for years. This was a popular dance piece among guitarists in the lower Chattahoochee River Valley of Georgia and Alabama, including my old friends George Daniel and Robert Thomas, from whom I learned it.

            Michael Chapman

            True North

              The masterful follow-up to his universally celebrated 2017 album 50, Michael Chapman’s True North finds the elder statesman of British song writing and guitar plumbing an even deeper deep and honing an ever keener edge to his iconic writing. This authoritative set of predominantly new, and utterly devastating, songs hews to a more intimate sonic signature—more atmospheric, textural, and minimalist than 50, stately and melancholy in equal measure. Recorded in rural West Wales, True North unflinchingly surveys home and horizon, traveling from the Bahamas to Texas to the Leeds of Chapman’s childhood, haunted by the mirages of memory and intimations of mortality. Joining him on this introspective journey is a cast of old friends and new disciples: once again Steve Gunn produces and plays guitar, and fellow UK song writing hero Bridget St John sings, collaborating with cellist Sarah Smout and legendary pedal steel player BJ Cole, who has accompanied everyone from John Cale to Scott Walker, Elton John to Terry Allen, Felt to Björk.

              The album begins with the gnawing regret of “It’s Too Late,” and every song Chapman sings thereafter directly references the passing of time—its blind ruthlessness, its sweet hazy delights in noirish language almost mystical in its terseness and precision. (The two transportive, gorgeous instrumentals, one per side, both have appropriately evocative—though decidedly not Northern—pastoral place names for titles: Eleuthera is an island in the Bahamas where Chapman habitually holidays every winter, and Caddo Lake straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana.) This is Chapman at his darkest and most nocturnal, yes, but also his most elegant and subtle, squinting into the black hours with an unseen smile. By the time True North is out in the world, Chapman will be seventy-eight years old and will have released nearly as many records, a staggering achievement. True North represents the most nakedly personal album of his career, his most authoritative, unguarded, and emotionally devastating statement. His universally celebrated full-band 2017 album 50 flirted with much-deserved triumphalism, offering a retrospective of his illustrious career, revisited in the company of the fellow UK song writing hero Bridget St John and a rowdy gang of younger acolytes including Steve Gunn, James Elkington, and Nathan Bowles. The production hearkens back to Chapman’s classic Millstone Grit (1973), as well as recalling Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind (1997); True North shares something of that album’s spectral gloaming, midnight heartache, and sly, self-knowing winks. Compared to 50, these recordings feel narrower in range, less overtly narrative and dynamic and more impressionistic and restrained, but they are correspondingly more piercing and arrow-like in their rending impact, more concerned with an archer’s deadeye aim than pyrotechnics. Whereas 50 featured two new songs among radical reinterpretations of material from Chapman’s deep catalogue, True North includes twice as many new numbers among its quiver of eleven arrows—“It’s Too Late,” “Eleuthera,” the fiery “Bluesman,” and slow-rolling album centre piece “Truck Song”—confirming the exultant return of Chapman the songwriter. The other songs were selected from various obscure corners of Chapman’s vast catalogue (“Youth Is Wasted on the Young” was previously recorded with Thurston Moore and Jim O’Rourke for a compilation, for example.) In these renderings they receive their definitive treatments, utterly transformed.

              STAFF COMMENTS

              Barry says: Chapman once again providing a tender but devastatingly evocative suite of brittle acoustic numbers, slowly strummed or skilfully picked cascades of guitar, all topped with Chapman's husky but perfectly fitting vocal accompaniment. Encompassing aspects of outsider folk and campfire revelry with the characteristic shadowy acoustic undercurrent inherent in all of his work. Quintessentially Chapman.

              Nathan Bowles

              Plainly Mistaken

                RIYL: Steve Gunn, Jake Xerxes Fussell, the Black Twig Pickers, Pelt, Jack Rose, Michael Chapman, Bill Callahan, Daniel Bachman, Marisa Anderson, William Tyler, Hiss Golden Messenger, Mary Lattimore, CAVE, Henry Flynt, Clive Palmer, Terry Riley, Julie Tippetts.

                “Sounds like Philip Glass playing to barnyard animals ... balances the cerebral with the soulful.” Uncut

                “Nathan Bowles is like my spirit animal. It’s the real shit … beautiful then, beautiful now. Timeless.” Kurt Vile

                On his playfully sub versive fourth solo album, Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn, Pelt, Black Twig Pickers) extends his acclaimed banjo and percussion practice into the full-band realm for the first time, showcasing both delicate solo meditations and smoldering, swinging ensemble explorations featuring Casey Toll (Jake Xerxes Fussell, Mt. Moriah) on double bass and Rex McMurry (CAVE) on drums. As he considers the cycles of deceit and self-deception that shape both our personal and political lives, a mixed mood of melancholy and merriment permeates Bowles’s own compositions as well as the interpretive material, which draws from traditional Appalachian repertoires and the diverse songbooks of Julie Tippetts, Cousin Emmy, and Silver Apples.

                Plainly Mistaken, the playfully subversive fourth solo album by Durham, North Carolina multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bowles, begins with a lullaby written by a child for an adult. The seven year-old Jessica Constable composed “Now If You Remember”—the titular lyric continues, precociously, “we were talking about God and you”—for English singer Julie Tippetts’s 1976 album Sunset Glow. Bowles’s ethereal rendering represents a rather radical departure from his previous recordings; his placidly plaintive singing has been stripped of its otherwise genial, ursine gruffness, and the brief song floats by on the sedative ebb tide of banjo and pianos both acoustic and electric.

                Following that role reversal—a child assuming the role of parental bedtime bard—is the ten and a half minute-long album centrepiece “The Road Reversed,” a reversal (and vast expansion) of previous directions both sonic and congregational. Here, and throughout Plainly Mistaken, Bowles extends his acclaimed solo banjo and percussion practice into the full-band realm for the first time, showcasing both delicate solo meditations and smoldering, swinging ensemble explorations. “The Road Reversed” introduces the growling, bowed double bass of Casey Toll (Jake Xerxes Fussell, Mt. Moriah) and the rigorously precise minimalist drumming of Rex McMurry (CAVE), both of whom feature on five of the nine tracks herein and are integral to the record’s ambitious palette and limber but exacting rhythmic structures. “The Road Reversed” likewise introduces, and lays authoritative claim to, the full compositional extent and capacity of this unorthodox banjo-bass-drums trio, the spacious sonority of which might best be described as arboreal in texture and heft. No instrument impinges on the frequency of another—instead, they feel like towering ligneous parallels, great swaying longleaf pines that, arc and bend perilously together in heavy winds, groaning in head-nodding 5/4 time but remaining upright and rooted.

                Plainly Mistaken, its title apt, adjusts assumptions we might have made about the scope and scale of Nathan’s music, which sounds both more exquisitely controlled and more dangerously unleashed than ever before. We hear here his ever restless roving between the poles of Appalachian and Piedmont string band traditions and ecstatic drone. In the former category are his percolating full-band rerecording of Ernie Carpenter’s “Elk River Blues” (which previously appeared in a very different solo iteration on A Bottle, A Buckeye [2012]); “Fresh & Fairly So,” the indelibly careening melody of which could be an old-time standard; and “Stump Sprout,” the ghost of a misremembered reel. The latter category includes the solo recordings “Umbra,” “Girih Tiles” (played on the “mellowtone,” a custom banjo/bazouki hybrid instrument built by Rex McMurry’s father Maurice), and the improvised “In Kind” suite. However, never before has Bowles offered such a surprising, but succinct, crystallization of his diverse work with other groups—Steve Gunn, Pelt, the Black Twig Pickers, and most recently, Jake Xerxes Fussell’s band, in which he serves double duty on drums and banjo—made possible here by the fleshed-out full-band configuration and arrangements. Colleague and mutual musical admirer Bill Callahan writes of these scale shifts in Nathan’s music as, alternately, “the grand blankness of seeing everything at once” or “a pinhole vision that soothes and subjects in its narrowness”—the two conditions as, perhaps, two sides of the same equation of Panopticon-to-pinhole compositional logic. That also sounds like a description of spiritual jazz, or the trance context of gnawa song, both of which inform Bowles’s work here.

                But this is not solipsistic music. Plainly Mistaken also gestures outward to the world, as Bowles considers the cycles of deceit and self-deception that shape both our personal and political lives. “I’ve come to the conclusion,” he writes, “that we’re generally ahistorical and snowblind, unable to adequately digest the past in order to live sufficiently in the present.” The album jacket includes a quotation from Javier Marías’s 2014 novel Thus Bad Begins: “We go from deceit to deceit and know that, in that respect, we are not deceived, and yet we always take the latest deceit for the truth.” It might be funny if it wasn’t so devastating.

                And so a mixed mood of melancholy and merriment permeates Bowles’s own compositions as well as the interpretive material. His rambunctious and exuberant version of Cousin Emmy and Her Kinfolk’s 1946 proto-bluegrass classic “Ruby,” the other vocal track here—elided with “In Kind I”—draws primarily from the 1968 version by Silver Apples instead of the canonical versions by the Osborne Brothers or Buck Owens, thereby embodying a tribute to a palimpsest of bluegrass-meets-avant-garde iterations that perfectly suits Nathan’s own practice. In its trio-fueled headlong canter, “Ruby” feels unhinged and manic, a sinister interrogative mantra that encapsulates the slippery cycle of deception and stuttering accusation that plagues our contemporary cultural moment.

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                Deluxe LP Info: Deluxe 140g virgin vinyl LP features heavy-duty board jacket, color LP labels, and high-res Bandcamp download code.

                Mind Over Mirrors

                Bellowing Sun

                  A twelve-faceted sonic inquiry into celestial cycles, the rhythms of the natural world, and the illuminating nature of darkness, the accompanying album Bellowing Sun is the majestic culmination of Fennelly’s immersive explorations of the natural world’s sensory dimensions and the dialogues between musical traditions—acoustic and electronic, vernacular and avant-garde. The solitary compositional genesis of the piece, and a significant portion of its early recording (before tracking and mixing sessions with John McEntire of Tortoise), occurred at Bean’s home atop a dune of fine quartz “singing sands” on the shore of Lake Michigan.

                  Sonically, Bellowing Sun is both kaleidoscopic and telescopic in nature, offering a radiant palette of rhythmic, textural, and tonal complexity, as well as rapid shifts in scale, from the intimately corporeal to the dizzyingly cosmic. All four J’s—Jaime, Janet, Jim, and Jon—appeared together on Undying Color, but have since solidified into a formidable, cohesive unit, a true band capable of increasingly expansive arrangements. Though divided into twelve movements, or aspects—zodiacal sectors, perhaps—the piece functions as a heroic, integral whole. The album’s sequence reveals a dynamic push and pull between contemplative stasis and headlong momentum, imparting a palpably physical mass to the cataracts of sound. Bean sings on half of the tracks, including early stunner “Matchstick Grip” and the spectacular closer “Pause to Wonder.” Whether articulating words or intoning phonemes, her powerful, lucent voice elevates the proceedings to a devotional plane whenever it emerges from the saturated field of sound.

                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                  2xLP Info: 140g virgin vinyl LP features heavy-duty gatefold

                  2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

                  Gun Outfit

                  Out Of Range

                    Deluxe 140g LP printed inner sleeve, and download. RIYL Steve Gunn, Terry Allen, Promised Land Sound, Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth & Lee Hazlewood. “Peyote for the ears... Expansive, arid, and dusty.” Uncut // “Dreamers wielding slide guitars. A tradition-warping band, with a punk aesthetic deep at the center and double-guitar desert-rock psychedelia at the surface.” The New York Times // Like a stone eroded by years in the arroyo, Gun Outfit’s enveloping “Western expanse” aesthetic of guitar levitations and honky-tonk hexes has become gradually smoother over time. Their fifth LP ranks as their most brutally beautiful statement yet. Drawing from mythologies both classical and postmodern, Out of Range builds a world in which Brueghel the Elder, St. Augustine, and the ancient goddess Cybele ride with John Ford, Samuel Beckett, and Wallace Stevens on a Orphic-Gnostic suicide drive towards the hallucinatory vanishing points of the Southwestern desert, debating the denouement of the decaying American dream.

                    It’s a lesser known beheading-ending of the Orpheus story that L.A. band Gun Outfit recount in “Ontological Intercourse,” the opening track of their fifth full-length record Out of Range, their most brutally beautiful statement yet: “Seeds/the kind that sparrows eat/becoming the willow tree/that Orpheus took beneath/To play ballads for the dead/Till they buried his singing head/Because he worshipped the sun instead/Of the god of epiphany.” Next time the chorus comes round, singer and guitarist Dylan Sharp—who shares twin vocal and guitar duties with the incomparable Carrie Keith—sings a mutant doo-wop bass line. Ballads for the dead, indeed. Meanwhile, other songs inhabit concerns more terrestrial and immediate, though no less profound: the open road (“The 101”); human love (“Three Words,”); death and the failures of faith (“Primacy of Love”); and the damages, deceits, and delights of drugs (“Strange Insistence.”)

                    The latter quotes the Old Testament (Numbers 21:17: “Spring up/O well”) soon after reciting, ironically, the deadly seductions of narcotics: “Speed makes you a genius/Cocaine will make you rich/LSD shows you divinity/And everything’s alright on opiates.” “I tried to quit/before I quit again,” it begins with resolve, but after all, “lies can make you famous.” Throughout the album, the strange becomes familiar, and the familiar strange, a desert mirage of music and language; or, as Carrie sings in the Waylon-esque “Background Deal:” “The things she says/you never heard ’em before.” And therein lies the magic trick: Out of Range somehow manages to contain Gun Outfit’s most conceptually sophisticated and lyrically ambitious material, while remaining their most musically subtle, understated, and accessible album to date, completing their gradual metamorphosis from punk aesthetics to a truly cosmic country—wherein “country” is a geography, a structure of feeling, not a genre.

                    STAFF COMMENTS

                    Barry says: Wry vocal musings, deep country slide guitars and the melodic sensibilities of singalong stadium rock. This is a refined, and highly worthy addition to the current trend of dusty country indie, compromising on nothing, and delivering the lot.

                    On her fourth album as The Weather Station, Tamara Lindeman reinvents, and more deeply roots, her extraordinary, acclaimed songcraft, framing her precisely detailed, exquisitely wrought prose-poem narratives in bolder and more cinematic musical settings. The result is her most sonically direct and emotionally candid statement to date. The most fully realized statement to date from Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman. Self-titled and self-produced, the album unearths a vital new energy from Lindeman’s acclaimed song writing practice, marrying it to a bold new sense of confidence.

                    “I wanted to make a rock and roll record,” Lindeman explains, “but one that sounded how I wanted it to sound, which of course is nothing like rock and roll.” The result is a spirited, frequently topical tour de force that declares its understated feminist politics, and its ambitious new sonic directions, from its first moments. Opener “Free,” with its jagged distorted guitar, is wryly anti-freedom—how very un-rock-and-roll!—in response to mansplaining chatter: “Was I free as I should be, or free as you were? Is it me that you’re talking to? I never could stand those simple words.” Lindeman’s song writing has always been deconstructive, subtly undermining the monoliths of genre with her sly sense of complexity and irony.

                    She has generally been characterized as a folk musician, and yet with its subtext of community and tradition, the term “folk” has never quite fit The Weather Station’s work; the songs are too specific and lacerating. So appropriately, Lindeman’s so-called “rock and roll record” suspiciously stares down those genre signifiers—big, buzzing guitars, thrusting drums—and interweaves horror-movie strings and her keening, Appalachian-tinged vocal melodies. Reaching towards a sort of accelerated talking blues, she sings As she hits the climax of “Thirty,” a poignant, bittersweet story of a passing crush, you realize she has been singing incessantly for the last two minutes, with nods to gasoline prices, antidepressants, a father in Nairobi—how she “noticed fucking everything: the light, the reflections, different languages, your expressions.” On past records, Lindeman has been a master of economy. Here her precisely detailed prose-poem narratives remain as exquisitely wrought as ever, but they inhabit an idiosyncratic, sometimes disorderly, and often daring album that feels, and reads, like a collection of obliquely gut-punching short stories. 

                    Wintres Woma-- Old English for "the sound of winter"-- is James Elkington's debut solo record, but you've likely heard his masterful guitar playing and arranging, even if you didn't realize it. Elkington (an Englishman living in Chicago) is an inveterate collaborator who brings his lyrical compositional and improvisational sensibilities to any group. He has toured, recorded, and/or collaborated with Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn, Michael Chapman, Joan Shelley, Nathan Salsburg and Brokeback, to name just a few of his many enthusiastic admirers.

                    His assured album, recorded at Wilco's Loft, is baroquely detailed and beautifully constructed, featuring both his baritone vocals and some of Chicago's finest, including Tomeka Reid. Elkington was brought up in England during the ’70s and ’80s—a time when traditional and acoustic music was largely shunned in favor of the new wave (to which his largely-destroyed copy of The Fall’s Perverted By Language will attest)—but found after his first forays into songwriting that some semblance of the folk music vernacular had crept in and wouldn’t leave.

                    Elkington’s music, however, is anything if retroactive, and anything if folk music: “It’s not folk music,” he asserts. “I may use the mechanics of folk music to put across my own ideas at times, but it really doesn’t fall into any specific community or songwriterly tradition. The album’s lyrics do seem to have a preoccupation with unseen powers at work and other dimensions, both of which seem to show up in traditional English music, but it’s based on my own experience and understanding, not anyone else’s.” Wintres Woma was recorded at Wilco’s studio, The Loft, in a five-day sprawl with engineer Mark Greenberg. 

                    Mike Cooper & Derek Hall

                    Out Of The Shades

                      THIS IS A RECORD STORE DAY 2016 EXCLUSIVE, LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON.

                      First-ever reissue of Cooper’s rare first recordings and PoB’s first Record Store Day release. RIYL Mike Cooper, Michael Chapman, Jackson C. Frank, Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Wizz Jones, or Clive Palmer. Available on virgin vinyl as a limited-edition 45 rpm 7”, with heavy-duty color jacket, restored original artwork, and notes. In 2014 Paradise of Bachelors reissued iconoclastic English-born, Rome-based folk and experimental music legend Mike Cooper’s classic triptych of early 1970s avant-folk-rock records—Trout Steel (1970) and Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper (1971-72)—to widespread critical acclaim, including Best New Reissue recognition from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. But Cooper sowed the seeds of his deconstructivist music five years earlier in his rare earliest recordings, until now scarcely known and never reissued—fitting fodder for PoB’s very first Record Store Day release. Named for The Shades, the Reading, UK folk club where he regularly performed, and which employed and housed guitar prodigy Derek Hall—who later played on Cooper’s 1969 debut LP Oh Really!?—the little-heard Out of the Shades EP was released in an extremely limited edition by local label Kennet Recordings in 1965 as KRS 766. The songs were recorded live to a single microphone in the kitchen/bathroom/former outhouse of Mike’s rambling Georgian apartment, on a portable Ferrograph reel-to-reel that the engineer otherwise used for “recording birds and trains.” By 1965 Mike had already progressed beyond and exhausted his interest in electric Chicago blues with his first band The Blues Committee. He was now a peer of British folk scene stalwarts like Davey Graham, Wizz Jones, Bert Jansch, and John Renbourn, hosting folk nights up to five nights a week at venerable Reading and London clubs like Les Cousins, The Latin Quarter, The Elephant, and The Shades, Hall’s home base. Cooper recalls his former partner’s artistry and skill with fondness and wonder:

                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                      Ltd 7" Info: 500 only on black vinyl.

                      Steve Gunn

                      Way Out Weather

                        'Way Out Weather' completes Steve Gunn's satisfying transformation into a mature songwriter, singer and bandleader of subtlety and authority. The critically acclaimed Time Off (2013), his first full-band album highlighting his vocals represented the culmination of Steve's steady 15 year migration from the fringes of the guitar avant garde, where he is regarded as a prodigy, and towards his especial style of more traditionally informed songcraft.

                        "A voice as rich and warm as Tim Buckley or a young Van Morrison" - The Wire.

                        "His tunes unfurl like bales of wire rolling down country roads" - Uncut.


                        An enthusiastic and generous collaborator - recently he has partnered with Kurt Vile, Michael Chapman, Mike Cooper, The Black Twig Pickers, Cian Nugent - Gunn's WOW band comprised longtime musical brothers Jason Meagher (bass, drones, engineering), Justin Tripp (bass, guitars, keys, production), and John Truscinski (drums), in addition to newcomers Nathan Bowles (drums, pianos, keys: Black Twig Pickers, Pelt); James Elkiington (guitar, lap steel, dobro: Freakwater, Jeff Tweedy); Mary Lattimore (harp, keys: Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile); and Jimmy Sei Tang (synths, electronics: Psychic Ills, Rhyton).

                        A radical widescreen evolution, 'Way Out Weather' is Steve's career defining statement to date.

                        His most affecting, accessible, and articulate work of pure songcraft to date, with a new emphasis on vocals

                        In the city we’re all angling for Quittin’ Time, laboring along and among the hours, searching and scheming for the sweet sound of those two easy words:Time Off. It’s something you take—or sometimes steal, like a thief or a baserunner—but seems you can never get enough of it. It’s regulated, rationed, and billed by volume, like water or electricity or ice cream. Sometimes you have to beg the boss for more, or even for a trifling taste. So let’s make time! Let’s roll the dice and get these old bones out on the road again.

                        Steve Gunn’s new album imagines the fugitive moments afforded us during time off, out, and away as occasions for dilatory investigations into our immediate environments and interiors.Time Off(PoB-08) showcases the virtuosic guitarist and songwriter’s oblique character sketches and story-songs, some of which, like “Lurker” and “Street Keeper,” portray specific denizens of his Brooklyn neighborhood. “Old Strange” celebrates Jack Rose, a dear and departed friend and muse.

                        Those contemplative studies frame Gunn’s most affecting, accessible and articulate work of pure songcraft to date. His definitive statement as a songwriter, 'Time Off' represents the culmination of nearly fifteen years of stylistic experimentation as a solo artist, a member of GHQ and the Gunn-Truscinski Duo, and more recently, as a guitarist in fellow Philadelphia-bred troubadour Kurt Vile’s touring band the Violators.

                        Gunn’s first eponymous album with a full band, 'Time Off' harnesses a core trio format to launch his compositions into new, luminous strata; the songs have evolved through disciplined trio interplay with longtime collaborator John Truscinski on drums and Justin Tripp (formerly of Aspera and Favourite Sons) on bass and guitar. Helena Espvall (Espers) also guests on cello. Steve’s keen baritone voice features more prominently than ever before on these tunes, each of which feels both more rigorous and expansive than previous efforts.

                        Here, Gunn the guitarist masterfully deploys the discursive, deconstructed blues style, at once transcendent and methodical, that has become his signature. Close listening reveals the influence of Delta and Piedmont country blues, ecstatic free jazz, and psych, as well as Gnawa and Carnatic music, on the continually unfolding compositions. The fresh emphasis on narrative, characters in counterpoint, and those heavy-duty vocals likewise recall the finest work of Steve’s friend and sometime touring partner, Michael Chapman.

                        Building on his established penchant for charting musical travelogues that ramble through city and wilderness alike, these dispatches about home are not merely descriptive but corporeal. Gunn’s evocative writing and ductile instrumental phrasing, buttressed by the band’s intuitive playing, carries the listener along bodily for the “Trailways Ramble.” It’s a real collection of foot-tappers and head-nodders, perfect for summer sessions.

                        The album opens with the sublime, meditative “Water Wheel”—a paean to “the water wheel’s constant turn/open views and days to burn”—and indeed 'Time Off' sounds as if Steve has swum full circle to reach the headwaters of his musical practice. This is Gunn at the top of his game, utterly unique but steeped in traditions both vernacular and avant-garde. Jump in.

                        FORMAT INFORMATION

                        LP Info: Vinyl edition features matte, tip-on jacket, full-color inner sleeve, and digital download coupon.


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