New Steve Earle Song: “Waitin’ On The Sky”/ new album out April 26th

Crazy to think that it’s been almost four years since a new Steve Earle album. Can’t blame him really – the man’s a workaholic: poet, author, activist, actor, and then – oh yeah – that songwriting/music gig.

Steve’s been busy writing his first novel, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, and recording his new album of the same name. He mentioned in Rolling Stone recently that it’s “probably the countriest record I’ve done in a long time.”

Earlier today, Steve’s label, New West Records, came up with this cool offer for a free MP3 from the new record, and a PDF excerpt from his new novel. All you have to do is have a Facebook account and click to accept it.

The new tune sounds great – fresh and familiar at the same time. It’s that unmistakeable Steve Earle vibe. Take a listen, then head over to download it.

By the way, another amazing album cover from Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick, who’s created every Steve Earle album cover since 1996’s I Feel Alright (he also did the cover for Yellow Moon by the Neville Brothers). His art makes me want to pick up all of these albums on vinyl. Beautiful work.

Steve Earle – “Waitin’ On The Sky”
[audio:earle-sky.mp3]

PRE-ORDER: I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (the album, out April 26) | I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (the novel, out May 12)

DOWNLOAD: The MP3 of “Waitin’ On The Sky” and an excerpt from Steve’s new novel here.

Red House Painters

Red House Painters

Red House Painters. I think I listened to their latest album, Songs for a Blue Guitar, only once before tonight – and didn’t give it a good listen at that.

Some cool tracks on this one…

A Neil Young-inspired 11 minute thrasher here with “Silly Little Love Songs”…

A Cars cover! “All Mixed Up”! Completely revamped…

And the song that pushed me again toward the album after hearing on Sirius XM’s The Loft – the title track. I thought I was hearing a slowed down, acoustic version of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”, but it was this…

Recap: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros / Dawes at the Clubhouse in Tempe

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Music discovery. I feel sorry for those that don’t keep their ears open to new sounds. As the calendar flipped over to 2010, I knew nothing (or next to nothing) about Dawes or Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Last night at the sweltering Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe, I enjoyed the hell out of these two great bands.

It started with the Coachella webcast back in April, when I watched E.S. & TMZ ‘s set. Freaky, folky, hippie vibes – something refreshing and different. So when I saw their Arizona date (and no boycott – woo hoo!), I was all in. So then, just last week, I got curious about the opening band, Dawes, and checked out their web site. I watched a couple videos (“Love Is All I Am”, “When My Time Comes”), really enjoyed the sound and the harmonies, and promptly snatched up their full length debut, North Hills. And what an impressive debut it is – I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it since.

So it was with this frame of reference and mind that I went to the Clubhouse last night – getting there nice and early to catch both full sets.

Dawes are a four piece folk-influenced rock band from the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles. Led by brothers Taylor (lead vox, guitar) and Griffin Goldsmith (drums), they have something special going with their brand of catchy melodies and three-part harmonies. Man, the harmonies! They filled up the room from the onset, with the great opener “How Far We’ve Come” – where Griffin took the first line of the verses, Griffin and keyboardist Alex Casnoff on the second line, and Taylor joining in on the third. Great stuff. Harmonies abounded on tunes like “Love Is All I Am” and the crowd favorite “When My Time Comes”. They also showed a harder edge with a nice new one, “Fire Away” and “My Girl To Me”. Their set had us drawing comparisons to The Band at times, and they obviously grew up listening to a lot of Byrds and CSN.

Dawes

Great all around musicianship and singing with Dawes, but a special tip o’ the hat to the singing voice of Taylor Goldsmith. The guy can flat out sing. And when he gets way up there, there’s a soulful growl that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old Stax record. Great, great live band and great album. You’d do yourself good to pick it up.

On to Eddie and his Zeros, also formed out of the fair city of Los Angeles (the Silverlake section). By the time the band came out, the place was a stuffy, unventilated sweatbox. I got some reprieve by being directly under a fan behind the soundboard, but man, this venue clearly does not care about the comfort of its patrons.

After watching a live set online, I had a good idea of what was in store. And though the Polo Fields of Indio, Calif. have absolutely nothing in common with the Clubhouse Music Venue, the group’s vibe and spirit were intact. Some early microphone issues almost jeopardized that good overall vibe, turning frontman/leader/messiah Alex Ebert a tad grumpy – but all was sorted out.

And so the band played on – mostly tunes from their solid 2009 album, Up From Below. They kicked things off with “40 Day Dream”, “Up From Below” and “Carries On” – a trio of catchy sing-along songs that hooked in the crowd. Edward’s muse, Jade Castrino, was the sole female Zero of the show. Usually, Nora Kirkpatrick is along for the ride (*cough-hotblonde-cough*), but sadly she missed this gig in the desert. If you’ve watched Jade on stage, you’ve probably noticed she’s a little unorthodox as far as live performers go. She won’t face the audience – she sways and faces to the side, shyly smiling, with her eyes locked in on Alex 90% of the time. If you’re questioning the messianic quality of Alex Ebert, you’ll be convinced after watching Jade for a while. But anyways, she seems like a sweetheart, and she got some lead vocal duties with a song called “The River Won’t Flow”.

“Janglin” and “Home” were the feel-good highlights of the evening. It’s hard to not like these songs, paraphrasing my buddy Trevor. The gang of characters there on stage – keyboards, percussion, a trumpet, guitars, bass, and lots of smiles – the band clearly enjoys playing these tunes for the people, even in a 110 degree steam room. The band then wrapped up the evening in mellow fashion, singing “Brothers” while seated on the floor amongst the crowd.

It was short but sweet set, although a hot one. I got the feeling the band was good n’ ready to jump in the bus and make haste for L.A. Can’t blame ’em.

The experience was worth the heat though – two new, fantastic bands with tons of promise. Lucky for me, they’re both playing the ACL Festival this year, so I’ll be seeing them again in October.

Here’s a nice series of moments from the evening, courtesy of Rand LeSeur Photography

Set List
Clubhouse Music Venue, Tempe, AZ
June 22, 2010

40 Day Dream
Up from Below
Carries On
Black Water
Come In Please
The River Won’t Flow (sung by Jade)
Janglin
Desert Song
Home
Om Nashi Me

-Encore-
Brother

June 22 in Tempe: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

Next on my live music calendar is June 22nd for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. I knew little about this group until I caught their set on the Coachella webcast. It was the highlight of my armchair weekend at Coachella.

The group is the brainchild of Alex Ebert (aka Edward Sharpe). They definitely bring the communal, hippie vibe; and it’s hard not to see Ebert as the prophet-like Jesus figure among his merry band of peace loving misfits (at least they look & act like they love peace). The music itself is highly infectious, supercharged positive-energy folk rock. Last year’s full length debut, Up From Below ($5.99 for the mp3 album), comes highly recommended.

If you’re in AZ, come join me at the Clubhouse in Tempe on Tuesday the 22nd. I’m not crazy about the choice of venue, but hopefully the band can transform the gloom and doom atmosphere of the place. You can pick up tickets on the Stateside Presents web site, or in person at Zia Records, Stinkweeds or Hoodlums.

Check out this nice 3 song set, where the band crowds into NPR’s studios for “Janglin'”, “Home”, and “40 Day Daydream…

Also, here’s the band’s first network TV appearance on Letterman last September…

Infinite Arms

Exactly two years have passed since I became enamored with Band of Horses (the cool thing about having a music blog is the ability to track your evolution as a music geek). It really clicked when I picked up Cease to Begin, then watched this in-store performance at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. Beautiful melodies & harmonies soaked in a classic, southern, indie rock vibe – the focal point being front man Ben Bridwell and his Voice from the Heavens.

In the 24 months since, I have devoured their two albums, seen them play in Austin, and signed on as a lifelong fan. So obviously, I was good n’ ready for the release of their third album, Infinite Arms, on May 18th.

Over the last month, BoH debuted the first three tracks of the record – “Factory”, “Compliments” and “Laredo” – on their web site. Great tunes, and it’s fun to get a sneak peek, but as hard as it is to do, I wish the band would’ve held their cards until release day so I could be hearing the entire album for the first time. Of course, no one forced me to listen to the early released tracks – but come on, what’s a guy gonna do – ignore them for 3-4 weeks?

But I’ve listened enough times now that these first three tunes now seem more woven into the fabric of the album than separate entities, like they first felt. Don’t worry, I’m in a good place now.

“Factory” leads off the record, features strings, and a great opening line: “The elevator in the hotel lobby has a lazy door.” This is one of the “growers” for me – one of those songs you’re not crazy about initially, but grow on you the more you listen. There’s a definite sadness to the song. Ben Bridwell’s lyrics center around a man who has left his lady, and is shacking up in a hotel…

It’s temporary, this place I’m in
I permanently won’t do this again
My belongings scattered across the hotel floor

And any thoughts of a happy ending and a return home are squashed with this last part:

Well I feel awful, and I believe
Time gets wasted in this misery
And darling I never wanna come back home

“Compliments” is another song that reaches into deeper and darker territory. “If there’s a God up in the air / someone looking over everyone / at least you’ve got something to fall back on… I bet you get a lot of compliments down there”. Can’t figure out if Ben’s writing about a dame who turned to the dark side. But this also ain’t no love song – that’s for damn sure.

“Laredo” seems the most familiar of the bunch, which makes sense, being so similar to “Weed Party” – same rhythm, very similar riffs and chord structure. And I have no problem with that.. a spirited, get out on the road vibe. And still, another about escapism – and from what I’m gathering, about putting an end to it all.  There’s talk of kitchen knives, bullets, and getting thrown in the deep part of the lake. Shit, maybe he shouldn’t take a trip to Laredo…

“Blue Beard”. Beautiful. I’m a sucker for Ben’s voice when things slow down and his multi-tracked voice shines – and this is the first moment of the record when this happens. The first few seconds will remind you Indie-minded folks of Fleet Foxes (though every choral-type harmony these days seems to draw comparisons to FF by default). Oh yeah, there’s an underlying sadness to this one too.

The midwestern sky is gray and cold
The sun never shines but that’s alright
And I couldn’t find the letters you wrote me too
What did you write? Where’d you go?
Well I don’t know.

“On My Way Back Home” is another beauty, starting slow and picking up tempo. Ben’s voice starts in an even higher register than normal. If I was put in charge of sequencing this album (and I’m sure I’ll have my day), this would’ve served admirably as the album closer.

“Infinite Arms” starts softly with acoustic guitars and chirping birds. Pondering life’s questions, man’s mortality, and returning to the refrain: “When my thoughts drift to you”. This line stuck out to me. Simple, poignant, intense. Really cool imagery here, and so open to interpretation:

I love the morning
I like to listen
to 4am birdies begging to feed
Now there’s something here before me
a figure i think
Isn’t there a warning?
Something to drink?
My God
My God

When my thoughts drift to you

Hmm, the “figure” there before him. The grim reaper maybe? This is how it ends?

“Dilly” has a fun little groove to it. Ben co-wrote it with guitarist Tyler Ramsey. Again, open to interpretation. Take the chorus: “”It really took a tall one to see it / two to believe it / three to just get in the way”. At a loss really to what it means, but I’m going to enjoy repeat listens and try to figure it out. “Dilly” may be the most pop-oriented of the bunch.

“Evening Kitchen” is a quiet one – acoustic guitar & vocals – written and sung by Tyler Ramsey. Ben and keyboard man Ryan Monroe add harmonies. Interesting tune. Outside of the harmonies from Ben, it’s a departure from the BoH sound.

“Older”, ahh “Older”. The band played this song when I stood feet away from the stage at their 2008 ACL Festival set. I even captured some amateur vid. LOVE this song. Ryan Monroe sings the lead (he wrote the song) and plays the B3 –  and Ben kills on the harmony.  An amazing song, and I’m happy to see it on this record.

“For Annabelle”, another co-writing credit with Ben and Tyler, features Tyler’s great acoustic guitar work, the churn of Ryan’s B3, and some great harmonies with the boys.

“NW Apt.” – I was reading a review of the record on Songs by Toad, and a commenter called this song a “blatant Grandaddy ripoff.” I love me some Grandaddy, and he’s right about the similarity – it could easily be Jason Lytle singing this song.

“Neighbor” channels the spirits of Bartles and Jaymes (those fellas still around?), referencing them in the chorus. It’s hard for me not to think back to the album closers of their previous two records: the songs “St. Augustine” and “Windows Blues” – the latter song arguably my favorite BoH song of them all – gentle, sublime and damn near perfect. So while “Neighbor” is a good enough tune, it doesn’t wrap up the album like the other two songs close their respective albums.

All in all, the album is seeping into my pores with each listen. I’ll admit I bought this disk on Tuesday with some pretty high expectations. Everything All The Time and Cease to Begin were an amazing one-two punch, and I was instantly drawn to songs like “Monsters”, “Marry Song”, “I Go To The Barn Because I Like The”, “Part One”, and of course “Windows Blues” (huh, those are the slower ones, go figure). So maybe I was seeking out that same experience with this record – expecting to be promptly bowled over by some of the songs.

The dynamics, however, have changed. The supporting cast surrounding Ben is different, and it’s more of a collaborative effort, with Tyler Ramsey and Ryan Monroe contributing songs, and the band self-producing a lot of the record (along with original producer Phil Ek). If you mix up the formula, your results will be different.

The mainstay through it all, though, and frankly the heart and soul of this band, is Ben Bridwell. His voice is one I’ll be enjoying for the rest of my life, thank you very much. And it’s his presence that makes Band of Horses something very special, and Infinite Arms a solid record overall – one that will continue to evolve along with the rest of us.

Buy Infinite Arms (Amazon)

Check out the Official Web Site of Band of Horses.

New Band of Horses – “Laredo”

It’s mid-April, and though the whole album doesn’t release until May 18th, Ben and the boys at Band of Horses have bestowed upon us another track from Infinite Arms. “Laredo” doesn’t stray far from the Band of Horses “sound” (if you can call it that) – that mellow folk-rock vibe spearheaded by Ben Bridwell’s crystalline higher register voice.

The song is for sale on iTunes. Go git.

New Band of Horses – “Compliments”

I’ve been trying to keep my cool about this new Band of Horses album. But with just a handful of weeks to go, the anticipation is building. And with the leak (?) of “Compliments” yesterday, well, I’m giddy with ants-in-my-pantsness.

Infinite Arms will be released on May 18th. You can pre-order the album right here.

“Compliments” is posted at a number of sites, including Get Up Stay Down, Knox Road, This Mornin’ I Am Born Again, and The Mad Mackerel.

Enjoy!

New Tunes from What Laura Says

Here are a couple of free & clear tastes from the forthcoming album (June 8th) by local band doin’ good What Laura Says. Below the tunes is a trippy newly released video – a “dubbed-out tanpura remix” from the new record, set to decomposed film footage of a 1960’s carnival (of unknown location – somewhere back East, apparently). I’ll have to pass on to the good folks at Shorpy, whose readers could probably name the place in a snap.

I Must Be In A Good Place Now

Vetiver - photo by Alissa Anderson

I heard this song on The Loft yesterday in quite the perfect setting – driving with my wife and two girls down a road outside of Flagstaff, AZ. It was a picture perfect day – snow on the ground, green pine trees, blue sky, and the snowy San Francisco Peaks in the near distance – and this song by Vetiver came on.


Nice, right? Turns out the song was originally written and performed by Louisiana music legend Bobby Charles (who passed just last month). It was on his self-titled 1972 album produced by The Band’s Rick Danko. Tonight, I listened to Bobby’s version, and was just as moved as Vetiver’s take on it.

So much music, so little time…


→ Go to the Amazon MP3 Store and buy the Vetiver Version and/or the Bobby Charles Version.

Visit: Vetiver’s Official Site / NOLA.com’s tribute to Bobby Charles

Courtney Jaye + Ben Bridwell

Where the voice of Ben Bridwell goeth, I shall follow.

And the boy has brains, apparently, because hubba bubba pow wow (sorry – that’s my reaction to the pic above). Ben (Band of Horses frontman) shows up on singer/songwriter Courtney Jaye‘s brand new record, The Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye (out Jan 12). From the samples in iTunes, Courtney’s record sounds really promising – melodic, sunny, rootsy. And this duet with Ben leads the charge…

Courtney Jaye (w/ Ben Bridwell) Sometimes Always (mp3)

Buy: The Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye

Visit: Courtney Jaye’s MySpace