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PARADISE OF BACHELORS

James Elkington And Nathan Salsburg

All Gist

    The duo's third album of instrumental guitar recordings pushes their sinuous compositions into labyrinthine new shapes, interlocking and interlocutory, supported by a cast of stellar collaborators. Interwoven among the dazzling original pieces is a fascinating array of covers, ranging from traditional Breton dance tunes to a deconstruction of Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance." How it was made - in two segments of three days, one in early Winter, one in late Winter, in Chicago—is a testament to James and Nathan’s enthusiasm for the project. As they’d done on their previous two duo records, each brought fragments of varying lengths to the table (literally James and his family’s kitchen table) and, in varying degrees of frenzy, built songs out of them. Some, like “Numb Limbs,” took several intense hours of tinkering, mostly for Nathan to carve sympathetic designs around the knotty edifice James had constructed—thus its title. Others, like “Death Wishes to Kill” (a phrase lifted from a T.F. Powys novel the two had each recently read and loved) took its feverish shape in forty minutes full of shrieks and groans and hysterical laughs hard-stopped by James rushing out, late, to get his son from school. The acceptable window for coffee consumption was pushed to its reasonable limits, and then beyond them, slamming up against a reasonable hour to start drinking beer. As with Ambsace, the covers on All Gist outline a Venn diagram of Elkington and Salsburg’s abiding interests. On one end is a faithful arrangement of English composer Howard Skempton’s resplendent “Well, Well, Cornelius” (1999); on the other is a composite of two traditional Breton dance tunes (pieced together from Canadian, Irish, and Breton sources); and in the middle where else is a transmutation of Neneh Cherry’s monumental “Buffalo Stance” (1988), a song that no one aside from James and Nathan would ever have thought for a moment could or should be made into fodder for two acoustic guitars. But it was, and with delicacy and joy and sincere reverence for the original, which they painstakingly deconstructed. All Gist perhaps demonstrates more than anything the precarious balance struck between what the Elkington-Salsburg duo is exemplified by cramming to compose or remember guitar parts in James’s kitchen and what the duo could be if it was the engine of a small orchestra in a government-funded arts enclave in some Central European country … where they’d be contractually obliged to perform in matching well-tailored suits.

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Death Wishes To Kill
    A2. Long In The Tooth Again
    A3. Numb Limbs
    A4. Nicest Distinction
    A5. Well, Well, Cornelius
    B1. Explanation Point
    B2. Fears Of This Nature
    B3. Rule Bretagne
    B4. All Gist Could Be Yours
    B5. Buffalo Stance

    Itasca

    Imitation Of War

      The first Itasca record in over four years begins, in “Milk,” with a dream of Genevieve, “the myth in the mirror’s gleam” perhaps, on this faith-haunted album, a reference to the fifth-century saint, or the chaste, cave-dwelling heroine of medieval legend. It ends with Olympia, standing at the shore maybe, among these myth-haunted songs, a reference to the ancient Greek sacred site, or, considering the artist narrator of the title track, to Édouard Manet’s revolutionary 1863 painting of a defiant sex worker. Across its suite of smoky nocturnes, Imitation of War finds Los Angeles-based songwriter, singer, and guitarist Kayla Cohen continually embracing the tangled ambiguities of its evocative title, with its suggestions of artfulness, artifice, and antagonism alike. Aptly, the song “Imitation of War” maps the range of the eponymous record’s domain, in which Cohen surveys, with refreshing urgency and a refined sonic palette, mythologies and psychologies both classical and deeply personal. Her characteristically ethereal vocals precipitate, among orange and laurel trees, upon rockier terrain than ever before, negotiating a “muse’s crown” and “a snare set by the devil.” The uneasy idyll, set to a brisker tempo and more spirited and spacious band-centered arrangement than most anything on Spring (2019) or Open to Chance (2016), her prior two albums with Paradise of Bachelors, captures the flexibility and finesse Cohen wrings from reduction. Distilled to an oceanic essence of guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, Imitation of War is simultaneously (and somewhat counterintuitively) her loosest, leanest, and most liberatingly unclad album and her most theatrical set of songs and performances to date. “Molière’s Reprise,” named for the seventeenth-century French playwright, sets the mise en scene: like the apple tree that hangs on / the curtains rise, I sing my song / myth changes to an actor’s call the bell rings, the curtains fall / and storyless I’m off.

      This kind of allegorical theatricality manifests not only in the redolent, if sometimes cryptically allusive (and intentionally Jungian), symbolism and subject matter which includes El Dorado, Circe, and Orion in addition to the aforementioned cast of muses, saints, and devils, at play in night and nature but likewise in the immediacy of its inky, glammy production. Cohen began writing several of these songs, notably “Tears on Sky Mountain,” in the fall of 2020, while she was recording with Gun Outfit (with whom she plays bass) in Pine Flat, California, near Sequoia National Forest. A nearby forest fire darkened the day into an eerie, eternal gloaming, ominously masking and unmasking the moon above the redwoods a menace and color palette that shaded the resulting songs. Engineered and co-produced by Robbie Cody of the bands Wand and Behavior, whom Cohen credits with helping to instill a newfound levity and sense of fun in the recording process, Imitation of War features both Cody’s bandmates Evan Backer and Evan Burrows and Cohen’s regular collaborator and bandmate Daniel Swire, also of Gun Outfit.

      Cody proved instrumental in shaping the elemental, guitar-centric arrangements to achieve what he refers to as “an economy of sounds.” Cohen played all the guitar parts herself, largely on her 1971 Gibson SG-100 the acoustic instrumental sketch “Interlude,” the ballad “Dancing Woman,” and the portrait in miniature “Olympia” are exquisite exceptions showcasing her deft command of the instrument. Nowhere is this confidence and lyricism more evident than on the record’s sublime nine-and-a-half-minute centerpiece “Easy Spirit,” the incendiary, downshifting dynamics and painterly solos of which radically expand her prior folk-inflected guitarist touchstones Michael Chapman, Mike Cooper, Meg Baird into the rarefied rock-and-roll strata inhabited by Jerry Garcia, Phil Lynott, and Tom Verlaine. These ten sturdy set-pieces represent the most smolderingly electric guitar-forward recordings of Itasca’s deepening catalog.

      Cohen explains the titular simulation as the “performance of war postures” evident at every scale of human and animal life. But it could just as easily apply to the revelation that, with Imitation of War, Itasca has finally come to inhabit fully the staged postures toward which former records gestured. She sounds more herself, more confidently authorial than the longing protagonist of her earlier work. No imitation, formal or emotional, of former self or imagined other, remains. It’s a self-knowing sentiment implied in the lyrics of “El Dorado”: I knew the road to my El Dorado / but I was caught looking at the weeds

      TRACK LISTING

      A1 Milk
      A2. Imitation Of War
      A3. Under Gates Of Cobalt Blue
      A4. Interlude
      A5. Tears On Sky Mountain
      A6. Dancing Woman
      B1. El Dorado
      B2. Easy Spirit
      B3. Molière's Reprise
      B4. Olympia

      Setting

      Shone A Rainbow Light On

        RIYL: Popol Vuh, Brian Eno’s Ambient 4, Harmonia, The Necks.

        The debut recording by Setting, a trio comprising Nathan Bowles (solo/trio, Pelt, Black Twig Pickers); Jaime Fennelly (Mind Over Mirrors, Peeesseye); and Joe Westerlund (solo, Califone, Sylvan Esso, Jake Xerxes Fussell).

        Setting, befitting its name which can be read as noun or verb, and simultaneously suggests the sun, or any star in the firmament from our earthbound perspective; a story and its surroundings, its scenic context or mise en scène; or a psychedelic experience, as in the prescription to mind one’s “set and setting” arose outdoors, uncontained and unconstrained by architecture. The group’s debut recording Shone a Rainbow Light On traverses textural, phosphorescent topography with a certified organic folk-engine. Kosmische correspondences are inevitable and valid, but also somewhat deceptive, given this meditative music’s terrestrial rootedness in the familiar natural world, more in native humus and humidity than in outer space.

        Fueled by a vibratory hybrid of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, these four stately longform pieces sound like a UFO slowly sinking into a peat bog (or, as we call it in North Carolina, a pocosin).

        An instrumental trio comprising Nathan Bowles (solo/trio, Pelt, Black Twig Pickers) on strings, keys, and percussion; Jaime Fennelly (Mind Over Mirrors, Peeesseye) on harmoniums, synthesizers, and piano zither; and Joe Westerlund (solo, Califone, Sylvan Esso, Jake Xerxes Fussell) on drums, percussion, and metallophones, Setting established its own setting and found its footing in regularly scheduled improvisational sessions outside Westerlund’s home in Durham, North Carolina, beginning in 2021. The three players began as two, in the context of occasional Bowles and Westerlund percussion duo performances dating back to 2018. Fennelly provided the initial impetus to gather and play together with intentionality and discipline, as well as an harmonic adhesive and thickening agent in the grain and gravity of his harmonium and synthesizer. As always, Bowles’s background as a pianist and drummer informs his approach to banjo, imparting a woodiness, a piney verticality and resinous tang. Westerlund’s training with Milford Graves is apparent in his polyrhythmic flow and its correspondences to human circulatory and corporeal rhythms. They recorded their collective discoveries with engineer Nick Broste in the spring of 2022.The record begins, like the group’s name, and like the language of its unique instrumental interplay, with ambiguous grammar: “We Center,” the first and longest track at thirteen and a half minutes, builds patiently to a percolating climax of tidal heaving, with ceremonial connotations. “Zoetropics,” the shortest piece, follows, offering a more diaphanous counterpoint to the density of its predecessor. The zithery, shivering “A Sun Harp,” its title redolent of Sun Ra, showcases Westerlund’s unfettered drumming, which skitters restlessly until anchored, at its conclusion, by a minor bass progression. Finally, “Fog Glossaries” exhales through the maritime and meteorological evocations of its title, distant buoys clanging.

        Although certainly elements and strategies of so-called ambient and drone musical traditions are invoked and deployed, those diffuse terms feel inadequate to describe everything else happening here: the devotion[1]al valences, the minimalist rigor, and even submarine jazz inclinations perceptible beneath the surface. Throughout this four-movement program, which invites deep listening, it is often difficult to differentiate individual instruments from the massed choir of the group’s unified sonic presence. At times what sound like field recordings cicadas, birds, wind, water splash out of this slow but powerful current, only to be revealed as overtones produced by harmonium, banjo, or cymbals. Setting’s sound is fundamentally synthetic in the sense of synthesis, not artifice—in a manner remarkable for its almost entirely acoustic arsenal of instrumentation, often registering as the product of a single alien technology, perhaps the rainbow lights of that bog-marooned UFO. (“Setting,” of course, can also refer to a machine’s variable operational amplitude its temperature, volume, speed, elevation, etc.)

        Sometimes the most seemingly extraterrestrial lifeforms are in fact our unfamiliar earthbound neighbors. Despite the destruction of many such habitats, the coastal plains of eastern, tidewater North Carolina is home to more pocosins freshwater, evergreen wetlands with deep, acidic, sandy, peat soils than anywhere else in the world. These threatened peat-bog ecosystems are the only native environment to sustain the carnivorous Venus flytrap, among other oddities. The sonic ecosystem of Setting similarly deep, acidic, and boggy contains equivalent wonders, savage and delicate, for listeners willing to take the time to sink.

        TRACK LISTING

        A1. We Center 13:27
        A2. Zoetropics 7:46
        B1. A Sun Harp 10:16
        B2. Fog Glossaries 8:46

        Mike Cooper

        Life And Death In Paradise + Milan Live Acoustic 2018

          RIYL: Derek Bailey, David Bowie, Tim Buckley, John Cale, Michael Chapman, Lol Coxhill, Davey Graham, Steve Gunn, Van Morrison, Louis Moholo, Mike Osborne, Lou Reed, Sonny Sharrock & Television.

          Mike Cooper wrote his final songwriter record, a suite of gloaming glam-rock anthems performed with a spiritual jazz trio, while living on the Costa Tropical of Granada, Spain, an era when he was considering retiring from music altogether. A chance encounter and a last-ditch record deal convinced him to make one last album, which he recorded in 1974 at Pathway Studios in London, with “The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World,” featuring the inventive South African jazz rhythm section of Louis Moholo and Harry Miller with UK saxophonist Mike Osborne.

          This first-ever reissue includes a bonus CD of Milan Live Acoustic 2018, a previously unreleased solo set that represents Cooper’s return, after forty-four years pursuing free improvisation and electronics, to a new, deconstructed approach to singing, steel guitar, and songcraft.

          The deluxe LP+CD edition also features a six-panel insert with additional artwork and an essay by the artist about both records. The deluxe 2xCD gatefold edition features an eight-panel version of the same insert.

          In the wake of his magisterial triptych of early 1970s avant-folk-rock records Trout Steel (1970), Places I Know (1971), and The Machine Gun Co. (1972) the British songwriter, guitarist, and fledgling improviser Mike Cooper retreated to the Costa Tropical of Granada, Spain. With no prospects for touring or recording again, his fiery band the Machine Gun Co. had disintegrated. Cooper sets the scene in his liner notes of the first-ever reissue of his unjustly forgotten next album Life and Death in Paradise (1974): No one came running with offers of fame and riches, and we fell apart, and I left the country and headed for the beach, disillusioned and a bit disorientated musically. I went to Almuñécar in Andalusia, a place I had been going since 1969, because a painter friend from Reading, Rowland Fade who made the collage in the gatefold of my earlier album Trout Steel had moved there in 1968.

          It was in this synthetic coastal “paradise,” unmoored and adrift, considering retiring from music altogether, that he began tentatively writing new songs. A chance encounter with producer Tony Hall, who offered Cooper a last-ditch record deal on Hall’s nascent Fresh Air label, convinced him to make one last album with the stipulation that he could assemble what he called “The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.” I told Tony that I would do it if I could hire some of my South African jazz musician friends that I had used on my Pye/Dawn albums and some friends from Reading that I still knew and admired. I called up Harry Miller, Louis Moholo, and Mike Osborne, who were in fact a trio at the time … and several local Reading heroes, including the singer-songwriter Terry Clarke. The result, recorded live with minimal overdubbing at Pathway Studios in London, was Life and Death in Paradise, an utterly singular suite of gloaming glam-rock anthems performed with a spiritual jazz trio comprising the inventive South African jazz rhythm section of Moholo and Miller with UK saxophonist Osborne. Unlike anything else in Cooper’s extensive catalog. Fresh Air fizzled, and Life and Death became Cooper’s final record as a songwriter, having pushed the form as far as he could.

          Drifting north from Spain back to the UK, he fell into the scene of the London Musicians Collective (LMC) including Paul Burwell, David Toop, and saxophonist Lol Coxhill, Cooper’s bandmate in the Recedents and fully embraced free improvisation. He was still, however, interested in singing and lyrics, so, influenced by Tom Phillips, William Burroughs, and Brion Gysin, he began experimenting with text collage and cut-up techniques, arriving at his own hybrid compositional strategy for improvisatory songs. The previously unreleased solo set Milan Live Acoustic 2018 represents Cooper’s return, after more than four decades pursuing free improvisation and electronics, to a new, deconstructed approach to singing, lap steel guitar, and songcraft. Presented here together with Life and Death in Paradise, the two records provide fascinating bookends to Mike Cooper’s long, mercurial, and pioneering practice as a songmaker.

          TRACK LISTING

          Life And Death In Paradise:
          A1. Rocket Summer
          A2. Black Night Crash (including “Horry Rocker Show”)
          A3. O.M.M. Coda
          B1. Suicide De Luxe (including “Rock And Roll Hi Way”)
          B2. Life And Death In Paradise (including “Through A Veil,” “Beads On A String,” And “Reprise”)
          B3. Critical Incidents

          Milan Live Acoustic 2018:
          1. Migrants Song
          2. Approaching Zero
          3. Industrial Hazard
          4. In Moments Of Reverie
          5. Peach Trees
          6. Sage And Thyme
          7. Lord Franklin

          Roxy Gordon

          Crazy Horse Never Died

            The Choctaw, Assiniboine, and Texan poet, journalist, visual artist, American Indian Movement activist, and musician Roxy Gordon (First Coyote Boy) (1945–2000) was above all a storyteller, known primarily as a writer of inimitable style and unvarnished candor, whose wide-ranging work encompassed poetry, short fiction, essays, memoirs, journalism, and criticism. Over the course of his career he recorded six albums, wrote six books, and published hundreds of shorter texts in outlets ranging from Rolling Stone and The Village Voice to the Coleman Chronicle and Democrat-Voice, in addition to founding and operating, with his wife Judy Gordon, Wowapi Press and the underground country music journal Picking Up the Tempo. Along the way he cultivated close friendships with fellow Texan songwriters such as Lubbockites Terry Allen, Butch Hancock, and Tommy X. Hancock, as well as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver, and, most famously, Townes Van Zandt, whom he called his brother. Although his work covered a vast array of topics exploring strata personal, local, global, and cosmic alike, Gordon’s primary subject as a writer, musician, and visual artist was always American Indian culture, specifically the ways it collided and coexisted with European American culture in the South and West and within the context of his own life and braided identity.

            The ten songs on Crazy Horse Never Died, his first officially released and distributed album, were recorded in Dallas in 1988. “Songs” is perhaps an imprecise taxonomy for what Roxy captured on this and his other albums, all of which remain out of print or were released in instantly obscure limited editions of homebrew cassettes and CD-R’s. (Paradise of Bachelors plans to reissue remastered, expanded editions of his catalog; Crazy Horse is the first.) He only occasionally attempted to sing, and his musical recordings are primarily corollaries of, and vehicles for, his poems. His sharp West Texan drawl, tinged by formative years of reservation living in Montana and unmistakable once you hear it high, lonesome, flat, and cold-blooded as a bare rusty blade instead patiently unfurls in skewed sheets of anecdotal verse and discursive narrative rants. His songs are essentially recitations over backing tracks of fingerpicked guitars, rubbery washtub bass, and buzzing, oscillating keyboards. On the stark yellow and red jacket of Crazy Horse, which he designed himself, Gordon describes these recordings as innately ambivalent in terms of form, content, and identity: These are poems and/or songs about the American West, white and Indian.

            Crazy Horse Never Died comprises songs that span the personal and political arcs of his writing practice and the poles of his native and white ancestries. His introduction to the almost-title track in the strikingly illustrated poetry chapbook supplement to the album (included in the LP edition) draws explicit parallels between the oppression and displacement of Palestinians by Zionists and the similar treatment of Native Americans by Europeans, justifying the historical necessity of resistance to racist imperialism through terrorism.

            In his 1984 essay “Breeds,” from the fine collection of the same name, he concludes with a note of hope:

            The voices of these continents are not stilled because, for a few centuries, this land is overrun by human beings who cannot hear. Over years of cultural and racial genocide, over centuries of lies and misdirection, That Which Is still calls . . . and the old American blood in us listens.

            Roxy’s friend and fellow poet-turned-musician Leonard Cohen had kind words for Breeds, writing: “It is strong. The word goes out. Can a change come on dove’s feet?” Bestir that old American blood and listen.

            TRACK LISTING

            A1. Crazy Horse Is Alive
            A2. Junked Cars
            A3. Living Life As A Living Target
            A4. Flying Into Ann Arbor (Holding)
            A5. I Used To Know An Assiniboine Girl
            B1. The Hanging Of Black Jack Ketchum
            B2. The Western Edge
            B3. An Open Letter To Illegal Aliens
            B4. The Texas Indian
            B5. Why Do I Miss Someone?

            Steve Gunn

            Way Out Weather - 2022 Reissue

              '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.

              Terry Allen And The Panhandle Mystery Band

              Smokin The Dummy

                Recorded exactly two years after acclaimed visual artist and songwriter Terry Allen’s masterpiece Lubbock (on everything), the feral follow-up Smokin the Dummy is less conceptually focused but more sonically and stylistically unified than its predecessor it’s also rougher and rowdier, wilder and more wired, and altogether more menacingly rock and roll.

                Following the 1973 Whitney Biennial, in which songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen and fellow iconic artist Horace Clifford “Cliff” Westermann both exhibited, Allen maintained a lively long-distance correspondence and exchange of artworks and music with Westermann, whose singular and highly influential art he admired enormously. In a February 1981 letter to his friend and mentor, written shortly after the late 1980 release of his third album Smokin the Dummy, while he and his family were living in Fresno, California, Terry explains the genesis of the album title: Westermann died shortly after receiving this letter, enclosed with a Smokin the Dummy LP, the minimalist black jacket of which Allen suggested that Cliff fold into a jaunty cardboard hat if he didn’t like the music. That response was unlikely, since Westermann loved Terry’s music, calling his debut record Juarez (1975) “the finest, most honest and heartfelt piece of music I ever heard.”

                The Panhandle Mystery Band had only recently coalesced during those 1978 Lubbock sessions, Lloyd Maines’s first foray into production. Through 1979, they honed their sound and tightened their arrangements with a series of periodic performances beyond Allen’s regular art-world circuit, including memorable record release concerts in Lubbock, Chicago, L.A., and Kansas City. Terry sought to harness the high-octane power of this now well-oiled collective engine to overdrive his songs into rawer and rockier off-road territory.

                His first album to share top billing with the Panhandle Mystery Band, Dummy documents a ferocious new band in fully telepathic, tornado-fueled flight, refining its caliber, increasing its range, and never looking down. Alongside the stalwart Maines brothers co-producer, guitarist, and all-rounder Lloyd, bassist Kenny, and drummer Donnie and mainstay Richard Bowden (who here contributes not only fiddle but also mandolin, cello, and “truck noise theory,” the big-rig doppler effect of Lloyd’s steel on “Roll Truck Roll”), new addition Jesse Taylor supplies blistering lead guitar, on loan from Joe Ely (who plays harmonica here). Jesse’s kinetic blues lines and penchant for extreme volume were instrumental in pushing these recordings into brisker tempos and tougher attitudes. Terry was feverish for several studio days, suffering from a bad flu and sweating through his

                clothes, which partially explains the literally febrile edge to his performances, rendered largely in a perma-growl. (By this point, he was regularly breaking piano pedals with his heavy-booted stomp.) Like the album title itself, the songs on Smokin the Dummy ring various demented bells. The tracks rifle through Terry’s assorted

                Obsessions especially the potential energy and escape of the open road, elevated here to an ecstatic, prayerful pitch and are populated by a cast of crooked characters: truckers, truck-stop waitresses, convicts, cokeheads, speed freaks, greasers, holy rollers, rodeo riders, dancehall cheaters, and sacrificial prairie dogs, sinners seeking some small reprieve, any fugitive moment of grace.

                A reigning deity of a certain kind of country music since the mid-70s.
                – The New York Times.

                The kind of singular American artist who expresses the fundamental weirdness of his country. – The Wire.

                TRACK LISTING

                A1. The Heart Of California (for Lowell George)
                A2. Cocaine Cowboy
                A3. Whatever Happened To Jesus (and Maybeline)?
                A4. Helena Montana
                A5. Texas Tears
                B1. Cajun Roll
                B2. Feelin Easy
                B3. The Night Café
                B4. Roll Truck Roll
                B5. Red Bird
                B6. The Lubbock Tornado (I Don't Know)

                Terry Allen And The Panhandle Mystery Band

                Bloodlines

                  On his manifold fourth album, acclaimed songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen contemplates kinship the ways sex and violence stitch and sever the ties of family, faith, and society with skewering satire and affection alike. Bloodlines compiles thematically related but disparate recordings from miscellaneous sources both theatrical and historical: two songs written for plays; two full-band reprises of selections from Juarez; the irreverent hellfire-hitchhiker-on-highway ballad “Gimme a Ride to Heaven Boy” (featuring Joe Ely); and the poignant eponymous ode to the arteries of ancestry and landscape (the debut recording of eight year-old Natalie Maines, later covered by Lucinda Williams).

                  Since 1970, when they met in Allen’s studio in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, one of songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen’s great foils and friends was the sometimes cantankerous but always brilliant art critic and writer Dave Hickey, with whom he sparred on topics musical, visual, and beyond (and to whom this reissue is dedicated in memoriam, in the wake of his passing in 2021.) Hickey, a fellow Texan paddling against the currents of the hermetic New York centric art world, was an accomplished songwriter in his own right, and

                  he and Terry pushed each other to refine their respective practices. In 1983, the two were thick as thieves brothers in blood and Hickey’s wry but big-hearted presence haunts the history and periphery of Bloodlines, the album Terry released in June of that year.

                  Hickey’s commercial doubts notwithstanding, critical recognition was not in short demand. In a 1984 review of Bloodlines, the L.A. Herald Examiner called Allen “one of the most compelling American songwriters working today … making the most unique art-pop of our time,” elsewhere comparing him not only to Moon Mullican and Jerry Lee Lewis, but also to the Velvet Underground and Philip Glass (probably the first time that unlikely quartet ever appeared together in one sentence). In 1983, against all odds, such sentiments were growing in underground prominence, as Allen’s records gained a fanatical word-of-mouth following they weren’t easy to find in those days.

                  Recorded piecemeal at Caldwell Studios in Lubbock, in sessions spanning August 1982 through January 1983, Terry self-released it, like all his previous records, on his own Fate Records imprint. Despite his frustration with the protracted timeline and some anxiety about the correspondingly higher budget, the production on Bloodlines courtesy, once again, of master guitarist Lloyd Maines is slicker, cleaner, and more dynamic than prior efforts, and it reached a broader audience than ever before. UK label Making Waves reissued it in 1985, facilitating semi-reliable European distribution for the first time as well as a 1986 UK tour, on which the great BJ Cole filled in for Lloyd on pedal steel.

                  No veteran country songwriter sounds more attuned to the national mood. His songs still feel like little guidebooks for staring down a harsh universe.
                  – The Washington Post

                  It has always been a fool’s errand to frame Allen in terms of other artists there was nobody like him before he showed up, and the subsequent 40 years have been equally light on plausible peers. – Uncut

                  TRACK LISTING

                  A1. Bloodlines (I)
                  A2. Gimme A Ride To Heaven Boy
                  A3. Cantina Carlotta
                  A4. Ourland A5. Oh Hally Lou
                  B1. Oh What A Dangerous Life
                  B2. Manhattan Bluebird
                  B3. There Oughta Be A Law Against Sunny Southern California
                  B4. Bloodlines (II)

                  Jake Xerxes Fussell

                  Good And Green Again

                    Jake Xerxes Fussell’s fourth album finds the acclaimed folksong interpreter, guitarist, and singer navigating fresh sonic and compositional landscapes on the most conceptually focused, breathtakingly rendered, and enigmatically poignant record of his wondrous catalog. Produced by James Elkington and featuring formidable players both familiar (Casey Toll, Libby Rodenbough) and new (Joe Westerlund, Bonnie “Prince” Billy), it includes Jake’s first original compositions; atmospheric arrangements with pedal steel, horns, and strings.

                    One of the most striking and strangely moving moments on Jake Xerxes Fussell’s gorgeous Good and Green Again an album, his fourth and most recent, replete with such dazzling moments arrives at its very end, with the brief words to the final song “Washington.” “General Washington/Noblest of men/His house, his horse, his cherry tree, and him,” Fussell sings, after a hushed introductory passage in which his trademark percussively fingerpicked Telecaster converses lacily with James Elkington’s parlor piano. That’s the entire lyrical content of the song, which proceeds to float away on orchestral clouds of French horn, trumpet, and strings, until it simply stops, suddenly evaporating, vanishing with no fade or trace, no resolution to its sorrowful minor-key chord progression, just silence and stillness and stark presidential absence. It feels like the end of a film, or the cold departure of a ghost, and is unlike anything else Jake has recorded.

                    In all his work Jake humanizes his material with his own profound curatorial and interpretive gifts, unmooring stories and melodies from their specific eras and origins and setting them adrift in our own waterways. The robust burr of his voice, which periodically melts and catches at a particularly tender turn of phrase, and the swung rhythmic undertow of exquisite, seemingly effortless guitar-playing here he plays more acoustic than ever before pull new valences of meaning from ostensibly antique songs and subjects.

                    On Good and Green Again, Jake not only ventures beyond his established mastery of songcatching and songmaking into songwriting, but likewise navigates fresh sonic and compositional landscapes, going green with lusher, more atmospheric and ambitious arrangements. The result is the most conceptually focused, breathtakingly rendered, and enigmatically poignant record of his wondrous catalog. It’s also his most deliberately premeditated album, representing his fruitful return to a producer partnership after two self-produced projects, What in the Natural World (2017) and Out of Sight (2019) (William Tyler produced his friend’s self-titled 2015 debut.) This time James Elkington produced and played a panoply of instruments, bringing to Jake’s arcane song choices his own peerless sense of harmony and orchestration, balance and dramatic tension.

                    The pair enlisted a group of formidable players hailing from Durham, North Carolina (where Fussell lives) and elsewhere, including regular bandmembers Casey Toll (Mt. Moriah, Nathan Bowles) on upright bass, Libby Rodenbough (Mipso) on strings, and Nathan Golub on pedal steel. They were joined by welcome newcomers Joe Westerlund (Megafaun, Califone) on drums, Joseph Decosimo on fiddle, Anna Jacobson on brass, and veteran collaborator and avowed Fussell fan Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who contributes additional vocals.

                    Album opener “Love Farewell” (featuring some beautiful singing by Bonnie “Prince” Billy), an elliptical tale of the folly of war, set to the world’s most heartbreaking goodbye march for a lover left behind. “Carriebelle” and “Breast of Glass” each similarly concerns, in its own way, romantic love and leavings. All three songs highlight Jacobson’s diaphanous, understated brass parts, tying them together in a true lover’s knot. “Rolling Mills Are Burning Down,” with its distant keening strings and capacious sense of space, observes and mourns the loss of work and community in the wake of elemental disaster. Nine-minute tour de force “The Golden Willow Tree,” the sole explicitly narrative song herein, is a hypnotic, minimalist rendering of a tragic maritime ballad about scuttling an enemy ship in exchange for wealth and glory and a captain’s inevitable betrayal.

                    TRACK LISTING

                    A1. Love Farewell 3:58
                    A2. Carriebelle 3:49
                    A3. Breast Of Glass 4:01
                    A4. Frolic 3:10
                    A5. Rolling Mills Are Burning Down 5:18
                    B1. What Did The Hen Duck Say To The Drake? 3:02
                    B2. The Golden Willow Tree 9:10
                    B3. In Florida 3:08
                    B4. Washington 3:37

                    Jennifer Castle

                    Monarch Season

                      Jennifer Castle’s 6th album, the moon-suffused Monarch Season an album as delicate and diaphanous as its namesake butterfly stands, in a literal sense, as her first proper “solo” album, performed alone in her coastal kitchen, windows open to the insects and the wind and the reflection of the moon on Lake Erie, entirely without human accompaniment (though a chorus of crickets provides rich interstitial support throughout.) This record is a reminder to cherish openly that which reflects off and onto me. A reminder that stone orbs only become meaningful moons when they experience the gravity and light of others.” Jennifer Castle. In autumn 2009, for the first time, monarch butterflies, known for their extensive annual North American migrations, emerged from their cocoons in outer space, onboard the International Space Station, part of a NASA experiment on the effects of microgravity on Lepidoptera. Ten years later, in autumn 2019, Jennifer Castle sat at home in her quiet coastal kitchen in Ontario, windows open to the insects and the wind and the reflection of the moon on Lake Erie her host of muses and recorded nine moon-suffused songs. It was monarch season again on Earth, and Jennifer was inspired to “see the wings in everything.” Now, a year later, we have Monarch Season, an album as delicate and diaphanous as its namesake creature.


                      Although created half a year pre-pandemic, Castle deliberately pursued a minimalist, homebound, and solitary process that represented, for her musical practice, a radical reduction of scale, coupled with a telescopic expansion of scope. The follow-up to her acclaimed 2018 record Angels of Death, Monarch Season is Castle’s private experiment on the effects of microgravity in this context, increased immediacy, intimacy, domesticity, simplicity, brevity, and directness on her music. Monarch Season transports the listener, from the first strains of the heavy-lidded guitar instrumental “Theory Rest,” to that lakeside kitchen at dusk, beneath a bright moon twinned in the water. It also intentionally resembles Castle’s riveting, discursive solo live performances more accurately than any other of her albums. The terrestrial vinyl and CD versions of the album include lengthier ambient segues of onsite environmental recordings between songs; you can hear the lapping of the lake. She recorded quickly, with only her longtime co-producer Jeff McMurrich to capture her guitar, piano, and for the first time on record harmonica.Jennifer dedicates her blowing to friend and mentor Kath Bloom, who played the Pink City harp.


                      Her airy, lambent voice renders these taut poems as elegant inscriptions within circumscription, fully present and presciently articulate, months before the age of coronavirus quarantines, about the troubles and delights to be found in aloneness, in the patient observation of our immediate surroundings. Subtle nods toward classic songcraft, and traditional ideas about songcraft are abound on Monarch Season. “NYC” features a baseball anecdote and metaphor (“we all pick teams, I guess.”) “Justice” is her take on a big-tent folk-revival protest anthem. “Did you lock my heart up? And throw away the key?” Jennifer asks on “Moonbeam or Ray,” embracing the conventional romanticism of that lyrical trope. But her answer to herself is oddly put, sad and slightly schizoid: “I hope no!” “What becomes of the broken-hearted?” begins the last song, slyly conjuring Jimmy Ruffin.


                      Castle posits no answer to that riddle. Elsewhere, warm personal details emerge. The gorgeous spiraling melody of “Veins” laments that the world is not changing “as fast as it should” a sentiment more relevant than ever while also insinuating that losing love feels like being stranded on the surface of the moon. Her repeated use of the word “labour” in “I’ll Never Walk Alone” “I birthed from the mouth of a cave” is metaphorical and literal, on two levels. In addition to her songwriting, Castle works as a doula, but herein her creative labour bears the fruit of these new songs, or as she calls them, “my new plays.” Monarch Season offers these songs as lapidary mirrors of solace, radiant with reflected moonlight, to whoever is listening. Look up, look around, look inward, they say, for the light of others. And then look again

                      TRACK LISTING

                      A1. Theory Rest
                      A2. NYC
                      A3. Justice
                      A4. I’ll Never Walk Alone
                      A5. Monarch Season

                      B1. Moonbeam Or Ray
                      B2. Purple Highway
                      B3. Veins
                      B4. Broken Hearted 

                      Mike Polizze

                      Long Lost Solace Find

                        RIYL Purling Hiss, Birds of Maya, Kurt Vile, Steve Gunn, Nap Eyes, the War on Drugs, Jonathan Richman, The Clean, The Kinks, Neil Young.

                        “Beautifully melancholic… A craftsman whose easy mastery hides the years of work it took to get there. The hooks seem to never stop.” Pitchfork // “Idiosyncratic and remarkable … unwashed, long-haired pop strum.” NPR Music.

                        The story of Long Lost Solace Find, the debut solo album by Mike Polizze, is a Philadelphia story. It’s also a story about the erstwhile Purling Hiss frontman and Birds of Maya shredder stepping out from behind the wall of guitar noise into the bright sunshine to inhabit the dazzling realm of glassychords. Performed entirely by Polizze (largely live and acoustic), with notable instrumental and vocal contributions from longtime friend Kurt Vile, and recorded (slowly, over the course of a year) by War on Drugs engineer Jeff Zeigler, this intimate Philly affair clarifies the bittersweet earworm melodicism of Polizze’s songwriting, revealing bona fide folk-pop chops. Long Lost Solace Find finally harvests the wild local honey from the buzzing hive of Hiss.

                        Mike moved from nearby Media, Pennsylvania to Fishtown, Philadelphia in 2004, cofounding Birds of Maya with Jason Killinger (later of Spacin’) and Ben Leaphart (later also of Purling Hiss, Watery Love, et al.) and subsequently falling in with a nascent scene that included the War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Espers, and the future Founding Fathers of Paradise of Bachelors. In the early years of the new millennium, Philadelphia, and particularly the affordable neighborhoods north of Northern Liberties that attracted artists and musicians, could be a brutal and sinister place, with acres of abandoned and blighted post-industrial blocks ripe for reclamation through thoughtless gentrification. (One of my final, fateful memories before I moved to North Carolina in 2006 was watching a threadbare, discombobulated pigeon stagger in sidewalk circles, impaled wingwise with a syringe. Tourists beware!) The primeval caveman roar of Birds of Maya through which Polizze carved savage solos, wielding his guitar like a garotte—reflected that uneasy, transitional urban milieu.

                        Beginning with his first record as Purling Hiss in 2009, Polizze retained the pervasive (if somewhat softened) fuzz but gradually pivoted to a more pop-inflected idiom that, as he refined it Adam Granduciel of the War on Drugs produced 2013’s Water on Mars increasingly recalled the classic indie rock of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although, particularly in the early days, it sometimes constituted a de facto solo bedroom project, Purling Hiss eventually released six studio records (on the estimable Woodsist, Richie, and Drag City labels, among others) and toured for ten years as a proper band. Mike never entirely ventured out from behind the moniker, or the clamor. (On Long Lost Solace Find, he jokes about sometime nickname Dizzy Polizzy, singing, in the final lines of “Vertigo,” the last song on the record, “I am dizzy in your world.”) In 2015 Christopher Smith of Paradise of Bachelors urged Polizze to play his first proper solo show under his own name, opening for the Weather Station. The present album developed from that decisive moment, with Polizze, Zeigler, and Vile hunkering down in Uniform Recording to chip away at these twelve songs.

                        And what songs! With very little electric guitar and few effects audible, Polizze’s expressiveness and dexterity as a fingerstyle player (not to mention a singer) emerges, especially on unadorned tunes like “Wishing Well” and the instrumental “D’Modal,” both of which bring to mind friend and fellow Delco native Steve Gunn. An amiably languid mood prevails, offhandedly achieving an atmosphere of quiet bliss and charming nonchalance that belies the morass of contradictions, bruising anxieties, nostalgia and nauseous stasis suggested by the elliptical lyrics (I told you it’s a Philadelphia story). The lyrical content sometimes dissolves into the simple, childlike pleasures of rhymes and phonemic play, dispensing with parsable grammar entirely, as in the chorus of “Do do do” and the “Bam-bam a rambling man, a midnight sham” bit in infectious lead single “Revelation,” an instantly winsome number which features Kurt on backing vocals and surprise trumpet. The way Polizze sings the banal title of “Bainmarie” literally, from the French, “Mary’s bath,” a kind of double-boiler kitchen device, a reference to the hardships of past jobs like “memory” gets at the remarkable way these lilting melodies unfold with gorgeous, unpretentiously Proustian grace and ease. The endless hooks here sound casual, almost shrugged-off, despite their carefully constructed recursive and ramifying nature. Long Lost Solace Find demonstrates Polizze as a fount of perfectly turned little melodies and riffs and guilelessly sung ditties glassychords. Long Lost Solace Find represents the apotheosis of Polizze’s evolving craft.

                        TRACK LISTING

                        A1. Bainmarie 4:32
                        A2. Revelation 4:32
                        A3. Cheewawa 2:26
                        A4. Wishing Well 3:32
                        A5. Eyes Reach Across 4:01
                        A6. Do Do Do 4:21
                        B1. Edge Of Time 3:20
                        B2. Rock On A Feather 2:52
                        B3. D'Modal 2:42
                        B4. Sit Down 3:45
                        B5. Marbles 2:22
                        B6. Vertigo 4:29

                        James Elkington

                        Ever-Roving Eye

                          Chicago songwriter and guitarist James Elkington who has collaborated with everyone from Richard Thompson to Jeff Tweedy to Tortoise recorded his sophomore album at Wilco’s Loft, expanding upon his celebrated 2017 debut Wintres Woma (PoB-034) as well as his recent production and arrangement work for the likes of Steve Gunn, Nap Eyes, and Joan Shelley. Casting glances back to British folk traditions as well as toward avant-garde horizons, these brilliant new songs, as accessible as they are arcane, buttress Elkington’s brisk guitar figures and baritone poesy with strings, woodwinds, and backing vocals by Tamara Lindeman of the Weather Station.

                          “An epiphany… a cryptic storyteller and dazzling acoustic guitarist.” Rolling Stone

                          “Elkington stands apart among the wave of 21st century guitar soloists. Beautiful, complex, and assured.” Pitchfork

                          “A convincing, warmly whirling weather system of his own.” The Guardian

                          “James Elkington is a friend of mine, and I have long enjoyed and indeed found satisfaction from witnessing the juicy fruits of his successful labors. Though it sounds like a line culled from a murderous Child ballad, “Ever-Roving Eye” has everything to do instead with the slipperiness of satisfaction, and the equal parts virtue and vice that is being your own mule and driver. Meticulously planned and quickly tracked (the Elkingtonian way), it includes Wintres Woma alumni Nick Macri (James’ longtime bass colleague) and Macie Stewart (violin), plus new recruits Lia Kohl (cello), Spencer Tweedy (drums), The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman (vocals), and the prolific Paul Von Mertens (Brian Wilson) on woodwinds. Where the first record was more firmly situated in the sonic tradition of England’s more interesting 1970s folk revivalists, Eye engages in a broader wrassle, roping in echoes of British library musics, horror-film soundtracks, demure psychedelia, and more rocking elements of folk-rock. The result is a record even more elaborate, shrewd, thoughtful and confessional than its predecessor. Ever-Roving Eye is instead a sublime distillation of the humane wisdom of a dude who’ll never be; the dude who sings on the single, “Nowhere Time”: “There’s a master plan somebody understands / And I wish that one was me.” It might well cast a pox on the concept of satisfaction altogether. Though it still satisfies the hell out of me”. Nathan Salsburg, December 2019

                          TRACK LISTING

                          A1. Nowhere Time 4:25
                          A2. Sleeping Me Awake 3:02
                          A3. Leopards Lay Down 3:47
                          A4. Moon Tempering 3:13
                          A5. Rendlesham Way 4:14
                          B1. Late Jim's Lament 2:54
                          B2. Carousel 2:50
                          B3. Go Easy On October 3:02
                          B4. Ever-Roving Eye 4:41
                          B5. Much Master 4:24

                          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:

                            TRACK LISTING

                            A1. Lily
                            A2. Only A Traveler
                            A3. Bess’s Dance
                            A4. Comfort's Faces
                            A5. Voice Of The Beloved
                            B1. Blue Spring
                            B2. Cornsilk
                            B3. Plains
                            B4. Golden Fields
                            B5. A’s Lament 

                            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, 

                              TRACK LISTING

                              A1. Blue Sparks 4:04
                              A2. Two White Carp 4:26
                              A3. Snowdon 5:33
                              A4. Slow Rush 4:24
                              A5. Salvation 4:42

                              B1. Red River 5:32
                              B2. Piano 6:27
                              B3. My Friend 5:44
                              B4. BV Kistvaen 4:21

                              Mega Bog

                              Dolphine

                                Mega Bog is the fluid musical moniker of songwriter Erin Elizabeth Birgy, who has spent the last ten years channeling, capturing, and releasing her unique bouquet of fragrant, sci-fi pop experiments with a handful of bicoastal collaborators. She is joined on her fifth and finest album (and first for PoB) by members of Big Thief, Hand Habits, and iji, who help her spin a manic web of emotions into beautiful, abstract future poems and thrilling genre perversions. Mega Bog has visited a significant portion of the Western world, frequently looping the USA and Europe to sing in tiny art spaces and haunted historical theaters alike. The live concerts are known for their emotional unpredictability.

                                The title of Mega Bog’s newest album Dolphine is inspired by a myth that suggests that, as humankind evolved from sea creatures, some individuals chose not to leave the water and walk the earth, but rather to stay in the ocean and explore the darkness as dolphins. (The extra “e” was added to take the word out of the everyday, translating it into a potential futuristic dialect.) The songwriting was inspired by Erin’s own swim through a myriad of overwhelming emotions, including the ongoing mourning following the death of her childhood horse companion Rose, her navigation of the feelings and physicality of two abortions, and the hapless and shattering social, political, and environmental turmoil on the planet. In October of 2016, Erin took her dark sketches to the Outlier Inn studio in Woodridge, NY, with a passionate crew of deeply bonded musicians.

                                Together, they arranged and executed these eleven dizzy pop songs, live, over a tight seven days. The completed sound is thick and inviting. Bellowing, breathless vocals, mystical lyrics with the presence of poetry and the intuitive logic of dreams, and promiscuous, sometimes dissonant chord structures swirl together, coalescing into hazy and hypnotic fantasies. On album opener “For the Old World,” anguished affection and confusion bloom over lounge-music genre perversions, both ethereal and belligerent. On “Diary of a Rose,” Erin steps through her losses and growths to a continuous groove that crescendoes into melodic chaos and revelation. “Truth in the Wild” (the title is taken from a quote by Ian Cheng) speaks surreal and lonely images over soft percussion, classical guitars, and clarinet, pointing to influences like Joni Mitchell’s jazz period and Laurie Anderson’s 1989 record Strange Angels. “Untitled (with ‘C’)” was written for Philando Castile the day after his murder, and “Fwee Again” works through all of Dolphine’s devotions instrumentally. Ash Rickli wrote and sang the airy outlier “Spit in the Eye of the Fire King,” recorded on the porch of the studio with the wind chimes blowing. Between the album’s recording sessions and its release, Ash’s heart stopped unexpectedly during one of his live shows in Athens, Georgia. He was thirty. The tragedy, devastating to the many people who loved him, permeates the album

                                TRACK LISTING

                                A1. For The Old World 3:57
                                A2. I Hear You Listening (to The Bug On My Wall) 3:41
                                A3. Diary Of A Rose 4:40
                                A4. Dolphine 3:15
                                A5. Left Door 3:16

                                B1. Spit In The Eye Of The Fire King (by Ash Rickli) 1:52
                                B2. Truth In The Wild 3:59
                                B3. Shadows Break 2:05
                                B4. Untitled (with “C”) 2:00
                                B5. Fwee Again 4:25
                                B6. Waiting In The Story 3:27

                                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.

                                  TRACK LISTING

                                  A1. The River St. Johns
                                  A2. Michael Was Hearty
                                  A3. Oh Captain
                                  A4. Three Ravens
                                  A5. Jubilee

                                  B1. Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues
                                  B2. The Rainbow Willow
                                  B3. 16–20
                                  B4. Drinking Of The Wine 

                                  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.

                                    TRACK LISTING

                                    A1. “It's Too Late” 4:25
                                    A2. “After All This Time” 4:06
                                    A3. “Vanity & Pride” 3:34
                                    A4. “Eleuthera” 2:50
                                    A5. “Bluesman” 3:35
                                    A6. “Full Bottle, Empty Heart” 3:20
                                    B1. “Truck Song” 6:08
                                    B2. “Caddo Lake” 5:55
                                    B3. “Hell To Pay” 4:13
                                    B4. “Youth Is Wasted On The Young” 4:02
                                    B5. “Bon Ton Roolay” 2:43

                                    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.

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      A1. “Feeding On The Flats” 4:24
                                      A2. “Matchstick Grip” 9:27
                                      A3. “A Palinopsic Wind” 3:40

                                      B1. “Zeitgebers” 7:38
                                      B2. “Lanterns On The Beach” 3:06
                                      B3. “Vermillion Pink” 9:21

                                      C1. “Halfway To The Zenith” 4:51
                                      C2. “Oculate Beings” 6:35
                                      C3. “Talking Knots” 5:32

                                      D1. “Twenty-One Falls” 6:56
                                      D2. “Acrophasing” 6:10
                                      D3. “Pause To Wonder” 5:39

                                      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.

                                        TRACK LISTING

                                        A1. “Ontological Intercourse” 5:02
                                        A2. “Landscape Painter” 3:09
                                        A3. “Cybele” 2:40
                                        A4. “Strange Insistence” 4:13
                                        A5. “The 101” 2:56

                                        B1. “Slow Realization” 2:47
                                        B2. “Sally Rose” 3:06
                                        B3. “Three Words” 3:58
                                        B4. “Primacy Of Love” 4:56
                                        B5. “Background Deal” 3:42
                                        B6. “Second Decade” 5:12

                                        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. 

                                        TRACK LISTING

                                        1 Make It Up
                                        2 Hollow In Your House
                                        3 Wading The Vapors
                                        4 Grief Is Not Coming
                                        5 When I Am Slow
                                        6 The Parting Glass
                                        7 The Hermit Census
                                        8 Greatness Yet To Come
                                        9 Sister Of Mine
                                        10 My Trade In Sun Tears
                                        11 Any Afternoon

                                        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:

                                          TRACK LISTING

                                          A1. "Paul’s Song" 3.20 A2. "Darlin’" 2.33 B1. "Livin’ With The Blues" 2.57 B2. "Skillet" 2.51


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