Archive for the Band of Heathens Category

Weekend YouTube: Best of 2009

Posted in Andrew Bird, Band of Heathens, Bombadil, Scott Miller, Shane Nicholson on December 11, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s that time of year again… time to make my year end “Best of” list.  I should start rolling out my Top 20 list sometime over the coming week.

Until then, you can go back and read up on my favorite releases of 2009, and relive some of that music with the following YouTube clips…

#1 – Noble Beasts by Andrew Bird

#2 – One Foot in the Ether by Band of Heathens

#3 – Tarpits & Canyonlands by Bombadil

#4 – For Crying Out Loud by Scott Miller

#5 – Familiar Ghosts by Shane Nicholson

Free Music Monday: Tift, Heathens, Ritter, Darlins…

Posted in Band of Heathens, Bill Monroe, Josh Ritter, Those Darlins, Tift Merritt on September 13, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The sign Those Darlins are standing in front of says “SALE,” but today I’m here to offer you free music. Lately, my inbox has been full of announcements from big-time Americana artists telling of free downloads they are offering on their websites. Simply follow the links ahead and download (completely free) live tracks and new tunes from Those Darlins, The Band of Heathens, Tift Merritt, and Josh Ritter.

Those Darlins have been working on the follow up to their self-titled debut album and will soon release a 7″ vinyl single as a preview of the new project. You can listen to two songs from the 7″ and download the new song “Night Jogger” at their website.
As I learned recently from our friends The Gobbler’s Knob, The Band of Heathens have offered another free download on their site. This time, it’s their version of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ classic “Sin City.”
Tift Merritt’s record label is offering four songs for free download on their site. Go here for live versions of “Mixtape” and “Engine to Turn” from her new album and studio versions of “Broken” and “Feel of the World.”
Finally, Josh Ritter and his wife Dawn Landes are sharing their version of a Heady West tune called “500 Miles” (not The Proclaimers’ song) to commemorate the beginning of their European tour. Get it here.

To end the post on a completely unrelated note… Today is the birthday of the father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. Monroe was born Sept. 13, 1911 in the small Western Kentucky town of Rosine.

Today, Monroe is known for giving birth to a style of music that is distinctly American and Appalachian. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, and a National Medal of Arts recipient. He served as an undeniable influence on any number of musicians who came after him, and helped launch the careers of other bluegrass luminaries such as Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Don Reno, Vassar Clements, Jimmy Martin, Del McCoury, and many others who served apprenticeships under him as members of his Bluegrass Boys.
Bill Monroe passed away in 1996, but his music and his influence continue to live on.
Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys: Blue Moon of Kentucky (Buy Album)

2010 Americana Music Awards Nominees: Duo/Group of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 2010, Band of Heathens, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dave Rawlings Machine, The Avett Brothers on August 30, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s almost that time again. The annual Americana Music Honors & Awards are set to take place September 9th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville as part of the 2010 Americana Music Association Conference. As I do every year, I plan on spending the next couple of weeks reviewing the nominees for each award and attempting to handicap the competition.

We’ll start with the nominees for Duo/Group of the Year.

I was largely unfamiliar with the Avett Brothers when I saw them perform for the first time at the 2004 AMA Conference. I was completely entranced by their energetic spirit and punk/folk aesthetic. I became a fan on the spot. Since then, The Avetts have continued to tour relentlessly while seemingly picking up fans at every stop along the way.

In fact, for their latest album, 2009’s I and Love and You, The Avetts graduated from indie label Ramseur Records to record for major label Columbia under producer Rick Rubin. With the move, the band also expanded its sound to include piano and more lush arrangements. Being part of the Columbia stable also allowed them to take their music to a much larger audience. By gaining exposure for themselves… they have brought exposure to Americana music as a whole.
Avett Brothers: January Wedding (Buy Album)

Like The Avett Brothers, our second nominee also has roots in acoustic music. Unlike The Avetts, however, The Carolina Chocolate Drops seem much more content to stay closer to the traditional side of things. The Chocolate Drops pride themselves on keeping alive the traditions of the African American string bands that were prevalent in the 19th century, but are mostly extinct today. Their standard repertoire of instruments includes fiddle, banjo, jug, kazoo, and a wide variety of percussive elements.

Their calling card is the fact that they do traditional very, very well. Go to one of their shows and you’ll see what I mean. The trio look and sound the part of the true revivalist act complete with an energy and aura from another era. It’s odd then that the song from their 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig that has brought them the most attention/controversy is a cover of Blu Cantrell’s 2001 R&B anthem “Hit ‘Em Up Style.” For every request I received for the song at WDVX (and there were many), I would also get an angry email asking why the station was now starting to play hip-hop music.
Carolina Chocolate Drops: Hit ‘Em Up Style (Buy Album)

This year marks the second AMA nomination for Austin’s Band of Heathens. They were tabbed last year in the Best New Artist category that was ultimately won by Justin Townes Earle. This year, they’ve graduated to the Duo/Group category on the strength of their stellar sophomore effort One Foot in the Ether. You may remember it as my #2 album of 2009. It also hit number one on the Americana Airplay Chart… making them the first independent band to earn that distinction with each of their first two albums.

The Heathens strength is their songwriting. They boast three top flight Texas song scribes in Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi, and Gordy Quist, and each share songwriting and vocal duties equally. Even though the three started out as solo artists who just happened to play the same songwriter’s showcase, they have forged themselves into a fine band that seems to have a solid future.
Band of Heathens: What’s This World (Buy Album)
Bonus: The band has new free download available on their website.

The final nominee is a familiar face, even if The Dave Rawlings Machine has only really existed for a year or so. Rawlings is the long-time side man and musical partner of Gillian Welch and is one of the most respected musicians in all of Americana music. He was always been happy to stand in the shadows in the past, but stepped into the limelight with the 2009 release A Friend of a Friend… the first album to bear his name.

Of course, Rawlings isn’t alone in the Machine. Some of his friends who came along for the ride include Welch, Benmont Tench, and several members of The Old Crow Medicine Show. It’s really more of a super-group than anything else. Despite the star power he surrounds himself with, it’s Rawlings that shines through. His vocals and virtuoso guitar playing are front and center throughout, and he reminds us of his songwriting chops on the covers-that-really-aren’t-covers “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” and “I Hear Them All.” Both songs are Rawlings co-writes even though they originally appeared on albums by Ryan Adams and The Old Crow Medicine Show respectively. The album was good enough to almost make people forget that Gillian Welch hasn’t released an album of her own since 2003.
It also bears mentioning that The Dave Rawlings Machine headlined last year’s biggest Americana concert event… The Big Surprise Tour.
Dave Rawlings Machine: Sweet Tooth (Buy Album)
Four great acts… four worthy champions. The Avetts and the Chocolate Drops both helped expand the Americana fanbase, The Heathens did things no indie artist has ever done, and The Machine was… well… a well-oiled machine.
My Vote (If I Had One): Dave Rawlings Machine
My Prediction: Dave Rawlings Machine

Top 20 of 2009: 3-1

Posted in Andrew Bird, Band of Heathens, Bombadil, Top 20 of 2009 on January 9, 2010 by AmericanaPulse
#3 – Tarpits and Canyonlands by Bombadil

The album coming in at number three on the list is one of the most stylistically diverse albums I heard this year… and one of the most fun. The members of Bombadil claim that the core of their sound has its roots in Bolivian folk music. Having never heard any Bolivian folk music before, I’ll have to take their word on this one. It is clear, though, that band culls their influences from a myriad of different sources. When it’s all mixed together, their sound is a whimsical stew that pulls from several ingredients without letting any one flavor overpower the rest.

Whimsical may be the best word to describe this record… but that’s not to suggest that it is in any way childish or immature. It’s quite the opposite. When I first reviewed the album in June, I made mention of how the ebullient music often concealed darker subject matter. The album hooked me immediately with… well… a ton of hooks and a sense of wonder that just isn’t found on many records anymore. This song, “Honeymoon” is one of those tunes that catches you off guard with a catchy beat and lays you flat with lyrics that deal with life once the Honeymoon is over.

Bombadil: Honeymoon (Buy Album)

#2 – One Foot in the Ether by The Band of Heathens

The Band of Heathens are a collective of songwriters from Texas who originally started playing together as part of a songwriter’s night at Momo’s in Austin. Ed Jurdi, Colin Brooks, and Gordy Quist each started out doing solo sets… then occasionally sitting in on each other’s sets… then adding a rhythm section and playing as songwriters in the round. A local music reporter made reference to a group of “heathens” that had started playing regular sets together and a legend was born. The guys have now released two albums as The Band of Heathens, and both can be considered essential listening for fans of intelligent, roots flavored Americana songwriting.

What makes The Band of Heathens so special is the three pronged songwriting force that almost assures the well of tunes will never run dry. The three guys share songwriting credits on this album so it’s difficult to tell exactly who is responsible for what, but it is easy to see a healthy range of styles and sounds on this record. Despite the variety, there is a strong gospel feel to most of this set including the call-and-response of “Shine a Light” and the distorted rodeo gospel of “Golden Calf.” The bottom line is that this album is full of top-notch Texas songwriting and is one of the finest releases of the year.

Band of Heathens: Shine a Light (Buy Album)

#1 – Noble Beast by Andrew Bird

No matter how much I may love his music, I always find it difficult to write about Andrew Bird. His songs just seem infinitely complex and layered, and they don’t really sound much like anything else that I listen to. After watching Andrew play a set at the Bijou Theatre in October (my wife’s anniversary present to me) I became even more convinced of the complexity of his sound. Andrew played guitar and violin. He also sang and whistled and used any number of foot pedals to record and playback loops of various instruments, whistles, and vocal lines.

All of Andrew’s various skills come into play on this album as well. Andrew is a classically trained violinist and quite the impressive whistler. I know it’s an odd combination, but the two play so well together that it’s very easy to forget how strange what you’re listening to actually is. This album is incredibly melodic and infectious, and Andrew’s whistling just seems to burrow into your head and take root. I often find myself whistling one of the melodies from this album when I’m washing the dishes or walking the dog. These songs have imprinted themselves on my brain… and that is why Noble Beast by Andrew Bird is my #1 album of 2009.

Just try to resist the urge to whistle along with this one…

Andrew Bird: Fitz and Dizzyspells (Buy Album)

Quick Schedule Update

Posted in Band of Heathens, Brendon James Wright, Jill Andrews on November 4, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Just a few quick schedule updates for some on-air happenings at WDVX this week…

***I had mentioned over the weekend that Jill Andrews of the everybodyfields would be joining me on the air tonight as part of the WDVX Fall Fund Drive. That appearance has been postponed as Jill has been given the opportunity to open for Willie Nelson tonight at the Tennessee Theatre. I spoke with her yesterday, and she is very excited for the chance to play on the same stage as one of the legends of Country and Americana music.
Don’t worry though… Jill will be stopping back by the studio in a few weeks to share some songs and insights from her new EP. She’ll be in the studio on November 20th at 6:00 to promote her show later that night at The Square Room with Matt Butcher.
***The Band of Heathens will be appearing on The Blue Plate Special today at Noon (Eastern). The guys from Austin had the number 1 album on the Americana Airplay Chart last week with their new CD One Foot in the Ether. I can’t wait to see their performance today… especially since I’ll be hosting the show.
***Finally… I didn’t mention this the other day, but Knoxville’s own Brendon James Wright (pictured above) will be in the studio with me Friday night from 8:00 – 9:00 to play a few songs and spin a few CDs. I’ve mentioned Brendon a few times in this space as a tremendous local songwriter and an artist you should get to know. If you are a fan of artists such as Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen, and Scott Miller… you should tune in Friday night and get to know Brendon James Wright.
Brendon James Wright & The Wrongs: Mason Brown (Buy Album)
All of the stuff I just mentioned (minus the Willie Nelson concert) can be heard online at the WDVX website. Today marks the first day of our Fall Fund Drive. If you listen to the station… and you feel moved to do so… you can make your donation to WDVX here. Thank you.

Random Weekend Post: WDVX Fund Drive This Week… Lots of Folks Stopping By

Posted in Band of Heathens, Jill Andrews on October 31, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

The upcoming week is a big one for me. Wednesday marks the beginning of the 2009 Fall Fund Drive at WDVX, and we have a few special treats up our sleeves. I’ll try to keep you updated on some of the bigger guests and happenings as they occur. For now, though, let’s just focus on the opening day of the drive.

It all starts Wednesday at noon (Eastern) when the Band of Heathens appear on the Blue Plate Special (which I’ll be hosting) and continues Wednesday night at 6:00 when I’ll be joined in the studio by Jill Andrews. The Heathens will be playing songs from the current #1 album on the Americana Airplay Chart, One Foot in the Ether. Jill will be sharing songs from her new self titled EP.

Here’s a taste of each artist…

Jill Andrews courtesy of MonkeyWhale.com

And The Band of Heathens courtesy of Music Fog

I don’t want this post (or any of the upcoming fund drive related posts) to be intrusive. I just think if you like what goes on here at the blog, you might like WDVX as well. You can listen to a live stream of the station or make a tax deductible donation to the station at our website.

I have never asked for reader contributions to help cover the costs of the blog, but WDVX is a listener supported station that counts on listener contributions to stay on the air. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Cleaning Out the Old Inbox: Malcolm Holcombe, Kris Kristofferson, & Band of Heathens

Posted in Band of Heathens, Kris Kristofferson, Malcolm Holcomb on September 9, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I get a lot of music sent to me every week. I mean a lot of music. I get submissions through e-mail, regular mail, Reviewshine… I even get packages left for me at the radio station. It’s a lot of music to wade through. The problem is that I also have two jobs, a wife, a dog, and a new house to take care of. I don’t often have time to listen to everything I receive or write extensively about everything that I like. That’s why I’m taking some time today to clear out my inbox and share a few things with you that I’ve overlooked.

We start with For the Mission Baby, the latest release from North Carolina songwriter Malcolm Holcombe. The gravel voiced Holcolmbe, along with producer Ray Kennedy and a band led by Tim O’Brien, has crafted another fine album full of gritty, bluesy folk tunes. The title track from his new album sounds upbeat and uplifting until you realize it tells the story of a teenage couple facing an unplanned pregnancy. These types of conflicted characters fill Holcolmbe’s songs and prove what a talented songwriter he is. For the Mission Baby will be released September 29th from Echo Mountain Records.

Malcolm Holcolmbe: For the Mission Baby (Buy Album)

Next is the newest effort from songwriting legend Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson’s latest is called Closer to the Bone, and as the title might suggest, it’s filled with topics that are close to the songwriter’s heart and tributes to friends and family who have passed. “Good Morning John” is a loving ode to the late Johnny Cash, while the entire album is dedicated to Kristofferson’s good friend and bandmate Stephen Bruton. Bruton, who passed away in May after a long battle with cancer, plays and sings throughout. The album is honest and stark with sparse production that lets the songs stand out on their own for what they are. It is a fitting tribute to Kristofferson’s fallen friend, and another fine addition to his catalogue. Closer to the Bone is released September 29th from New West Records.

Kris Kristofferson: Closer to the Bone (Buy Album)

I wrote recently about The Band of Heathens as one of the nominees for “Best New and Emerging Artist” at this year’s Americana Music Awards & Honors. What I didn’t mention then was that the Heathens are releasing a new album called One Foot in the Ether on their own Band of Heathens Records on September 15th. I’ve been listening to this one for a couple of weeks now, and it is another strong effort from the songwriting collective from Austin. The album contains eleven original tunes from the band, and one stunning cover of Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio.” The band has made two tracks from the album available as free downloads at their website… here’s one of them.

Band of Heathens: L.A. County Blues (Buy Album)

There’s a lot more music in the inbox to share… but I’ve got a dog to walk and a yard to mow. I’ll try to get back to some more as soon as I can.