Tag: americana

MUSIC REVIEW | The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music (2000)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “When the song craft is at this kind of level, no one needs to reinvent the wheel.”
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Alt country is a genre of music I find myself liking, more often loving, every time I listen to a band or performer who falls under that heading.  Wilco, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell (although, he tends to fall under the Americana umbrella these days), and his former band Drive-By Truckers (a combo of alt country and heavy southern rock).  When someone recently recommended I listen to The Jayhawks, it was the first I’d heard of them.  But now that I see they’ve been around since the mid 80s, and now that I’ve heard The Jayhawks with Rainy Day Music, I’m stoked to all of a sudden have 30 years of music to catch up on from some alt country pioneers.

The jangled guitars and slay bell infused hi-hat starts things in a great, vintage, 60s feel on Stumbling Through the Dar.k.  The light, sweetness of the vocal melody, reaching the occasional, impressive falsetto ads to that vibe.  It’s a great way to ease into an album, and the perfect setup for the alt-country, harmony filled Tailspin. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Amanda Shires – Down Fell the Doves (2013)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “For someone who could easily rely on the pure prettiness of her voice, Amanda Shires doesn’t seem interested in taking that easy way out.”

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I first became aware of Amanda Shires a few years ago when Jason Isbell released his breakthrough solo record, Southeastern.  While I found her perfectly up to the job of filling out his music with her voice and violin, I never thought of her as all that essential.  Then, I saw Isbell live without Shires joining him on the Australian leg of his tour.  That night, I was nothing short of blown away by Isbell and his band.  But as fantastic as they were, I couldn’t help but notice a bit of a hole left by Shires’ absent voice and violin.  It was a big enough hole to make me immediately more appreciative of what she does, and make me want to hear what she can do when front and centre, instead backing things is up.  Which is why I listened to Amada Shires solo record, Down Fell the Doves.

I was expecting fiddle, I was expecting ukulele.  What I wasn’t expecting was the spiritual like chant and sparse instrumentation of Look Like a Bird.  Even if I was expecting that, I wouldn’t have been expecting Shires to deliver it so well.  There’s an ominous tone to this song that makes it hauntingly attention grabbing, while never sounding like it’s trying to grab your attention.  And when her violin comes in, it only compounds that haunting non challans. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Al Scorch – Circle Round the Signs (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I’ll be surprised if any other 2016 release surprises me more.”

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Who is Al Scorch?  I had no idea before writing this review.  How did I hear about him and decide to listen to his album Circle Round the Signs?  I have absolutely no recollection.  Is this question and answer style intro the result of me having no other ideas on how to start this review?  You bet.

From its banjo pluckin’ opening seconds, Pennsylvania Turnpike had me excited about this record.  This isn’t some ironic, post millennium, Mumford and Sons banjo bullshit.  This is the kind of banjo that you need to accompany a ho-down fuelled by the contents of clay jugs with three X’s on the side.  An accordion is added to the mix for a slightly more subdued, but still infectiously toe tapping vibe on Lost at Sea, before Everybody Out introduces fiddles for a hillbilly meets Romany sound.

Lonesome Low is a great example of what Circle Round the Signs is making me realise is Scorch’s biggest asset.  His songs are clear throwbacks to early and mid 20th century Americana.  It’s the sound of riding the rails, of the backwoods, of the Great Depression, of a time long, long gone.  But there’s something about his voice that makes sure these songs are never cheap nostalgia or lazy appropriation.  There’s a clear, if not easily described, modern feel to all of these songs.  Making the sad lament and optimistic twist of Lonesome Low sound so lived in, and so fresh at the same time.  It’s an impressive balance.

And just when I thought I had heard the extreme limits of how old timey Scorch could go, while still staying new and vibrant, everything that came before sounds mundane compared to Slipknot.  The break neck tempo, the breathless harmonica, a fiddle and Scorch’s banjo at their most frantic.  All topped with lyrics like, “Have you ever seen a hangman tie a slip knot?”  It’s hokey in the most glorious and reverent way.

With the vast majority of Circle Round the Signs tracks clocking in around the two minute mark, the almost five minutes of Poverty Draft stands out, and it does so for all the right reasons.  It’s slow, deliberate and mournful, making it the perfect contrast to the raucous knee slapping that makes up so much of this record.  It’s also a great breather before launching into the Celtic energy of album closer, Love After Death.
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Before listening to Circle Round the Signs, I never would have thought of the banjo as a particularly versatile instrument.  I never would have thought of the banjo as the kind of instrument to build an entire band’s sound around.  And I never would have thought the banjo was the kind of instrument likely to surprise me with something new in 2016.  But Al Scorch has made me realise that the banjo is an instrument more than capable of the lot.  Staying respectfully faithful to his influences, while never lazily relying on them, I’ll be stunned if any other 2016 release surprises me more than Circle Round the Signs.

Al Scorch

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about Circle Round the Signs?
The A.V Club
Pop Matters

MUSIC REVIEW | Ryan Adams – Gold (2001)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A long, but satisfying record from a dude who has surpassed the promise Gold showed all those years ago.”

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For the second half of the 90s, Ryan Adams was lead singer of Whiskeytown.  They were never stadium filling superstars, but they reached a level of critical and modest crowd success that any hard touring band would be more than happy with.  They were at the kind of level that when they broke up, no one would be surprised to see the various members go onto bigger and better things, like Jeff Tweedy forming Wilco in the wake of Uncle Tupelo disbanding.  But it would have been just as easy to understand if they fell into obscurity, like a post Libertines Pete Doherty.

I knew nothing of the band at the time, but even if I did, I’m not sure if I would have predicted that Adams would go onto become one of the most prolific, eclectic, respected and successful singer songwriters of the decade and a half since.  A path that started with his solo debut Heartbreaker, but was pretty much assured with its follow up, Gold. (more…)