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Category: Folk Rock / Alt- Country

Punch Brothers, Who’s Feeling Young Now?: Album Review

Punch Brothers calls themselves a bluegrass band, but I think the old-time bluegrass community might disagree. The instrumentation bears a strong resemblance to bluegrass, with the traditional combinations of guitar, fiddle (violin for you yankees out there), mandolin, banjo and bass, but the song structures are much more contemporary sounding, more in keeping with Nickel Creek than Bill Monroe.

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Gillian Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest : Album Review

Album: The Harrow and the Harvest Artist: Gillian Welch Year: 2011   Gillian Welch is one of those artists who I always like but only occasionally love.  With an eight year gap between albums, fans and critics alike had to wonder which Gillian Welch The Harrow and the Harvest would present.  Would it be the Gillian Welch of 2003’s rather dissapointing Soul’s Journey or the Gillian Welch of the classic Time (The Revelator). Thankfully, The Harrow and the Harvest presents Welch at her finest.  This album is smooth and sweet and just the right amount of dark.  Yes, the music comes from a style that is a century or more old, but in the hands o Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest feels contemporary and fresh. A consistent listen from start to finish, The Harrow and the Harvest has barely a weak track to be found.  Opening with the classic-sounding “Scarlett Town”, followed by the appropriately somber “Dark Turn of Mind”, the album moves seamlessly from upbeat folk-tunes to story telling ballads to alt-country sounding rock.  Gillian Welch hits every base here, without losing any steam. Tracks like “The Way it Goes” are both wistful and fun and the memorable track “Tennessee” does great justice to an old trope of lost religion.  Even choruses of nonsense words like “fa la la, fa la la li” seem gorgeous coming from Welch’s lips. Folk music...

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Album Review: Blitzen Trapper, “American Goldwing”

Album: American Goldwing Artist: Blitzen Trapper Year: 2011   When’s the last time you rocked out to the sound of twanging jew’s harp?  Right.  It’s been a while for me, too.  If this lack of hillbilly goodness is troubling you, get yourself a copy of Blitzen Trapper’s newest release, American Goldwing.  It isn’t exactly country and it’s definitely not bluegrass, but American Goldwing exudes back woods goodness at its alt-country best. At times, Blitzen Trapper could pass for a 21st century reincarnation of Jerry Garcia and friends, with songs that bounce along like a sunshine daydream but still manage to rock the electric guitar.  Other tracks are less rock and more easy folk, a la Dylan around the time of Nashville Skyline. American Goldwing might have a little too much country charm for some, but throughout the entire album, what wins me over is Blitzen Trapper’s absolute sincerity as a band.  There is not a trace of irony or kitch to be found on this album and that may just be the secret to its success.  Unlike so many bands in recent years who seem to latch on to the sounds of 70’s in some winking, “aren’t we precious?” kind of way,  Blitzen Trapper is simply making the kind of music they love. Ultimately, fans of classic Southern rock and modern alt-country should find plenty to love on American Goldwing.  As for you Philistines...

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Album Review: Tim Cohen, "Laugh Tracks"

Album: Laugh Tracks Artist: Tim Cohen Year Released: 2010 As the summer wanes, school starts back and football season approaches, I was looking for music that would reflect this mood of hot, slow evenings, waiting for fall.  I found just the album in Tim Cohen’s, of the Fresh and Only’s, second solo LP, Laugh Tracks. Though the title sounds like it should be a comedy album, Laugh Tracks isn’t a joke.  It does, however, possess a subtle irony in Cohen heavily laden vocals that sound at times like early Stones or Doors.  The music is laid back but with an ever present intensity, especially on tracks like “Deep Blue Sea”, with its use of horns and Surf-Rock style electric guitar. Most of the tracks are someone minimalist, with Cohen crooning over a strummed guitar.  Its a perfect wind-down album, never boring and not exactly soothing, but definitely easy to listen to, preferably with a cold drink in hand. The lyrics go from simplistic to bizzare with songs about everything from nature to God, but with fun, weird twists. Laugh Tracks took me a few listens to really get into, so I recommend giving it a few tries before making up your mind.  Then, let me know what you...

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Album Review: Mumford & Sons "Sigh No More"

Album: Sigh No More Artist: Mumford and Sons Year Released: 2010 Mumford & Son’s Sigh No More has taken over my ipod.  I keep trying to listen to something else, but this album has wrapped itself around my consciousness, and I can’t seem to break free.  I was underwhelmed with my first listen, but gave it a second shot, and I was immediately taken in.  The music is plaintive, sometimes quiet and beautiful, sometimes dark and scary.  With a clear influence of English and Irish folk-music added to their indie rock sensibilities, Mumford & Sons manages to sound incredibly new by leaning heavily on all that is old. Read this song from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing : Sigh no more, ladies, sigh nor more; Men were deceivers ever; One foot in sea and one on shore, To one thing constant never; Then sigh not so, But let them go, And be you blithe and bonny; Converting all your sounds of woe Into. Hey nonny, nonny. Sing no more ditties, sing no mo, Or dumps so dull and heavy; The fraud of men was ever so, Since summer first was leavy. Then sigh not so, But let them go, And be you blithe and bonny, Converting all your sounds of woe Into. Hey, nonny, nonny. Now read the lyrics to “Sign No More”, the title track on Mumford &...

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