Land of Talk – “Diaphanous”

land of talk - joseph yarmush

Photo by Joseph Yarmush

Due to the pandemic the release date for Land of Talk’s new album Indistinct Conversations has been pushed back for the end of July. However, new songs have been released “Weight Of That Weekend”, “Compelled”, and “Diaphanous” to tide us over until we can get our hands on the album.

“Diaphanous” is the album’s stunning opening track and exactly exemplifies its meaning — light, delicate, and translucent. Elizabeth Powell’s songwriting and airy arrangement floats and hums building up to the anthemic refrain, ” I get caught up in the wrong stuff.” In the press release Powell writes, “What begins as an airy groove swells into a sweeping anthem for going easy on oneself. And, the importance of levity.”

Land of Talk’s Indistinct Conversations is due for release via Saddle Creek on July 31st, and is available to pre-order now.



Pre-Order Indistinct Conversations
Land of Talk: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; Spotify; Bandcamp; YouTube

 

Will Stewart – “Southern Raphael”

will stewart_way gone

“Southern Raphael” is Will Stewart’s lead single from his new EP, Way Gone, released on May 8th via Cornelius Chapel Records. A synth-driven, rootsy rock track that is fascinating and complex with its anthology of stories about brief encounters with interesting characters. Stewart told American Songwriter about “Southern Raphael,” “I wanted it to tell a story of those chance encounters you have with transients who make an impact on you, and how strange and beautiful it can be knowing that you’ll never see that person again.” And, he masterfully accomplished his intent by bringing each character to life. He even makes a reference to the band Morphine, which I seem to be on some cosmic kick lately — First, with my last Q&A with John Statz who often collaborates with Morphine’s former drummer, Billy Conway, and, secondly, this song. This makes me happy that there are more people familiar with Morphine, and, possibly, more who will become familiar with their work. So, if you are feeling the vibe “Southern Raphael” is putting out, then go check out his new EP.

Purchase Way Gone: Bandcamp; Website; Amazon
Will Stewart: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; Spotify

Q&A with John Statz

john statz early riser cover art

On May 1st, Denver singer-songwriter, John Statz, released his new album Early Riser. It’s an album that encompasses a few of the events that defined 2019 — Notre Dame fire, Brexit, and Trump’s racist attacks on the congresswomen of color last July.  It’s a thought-provoking album that is worth listening to, and, possibly, doing a little self-evaluation while playing it. So, naturally, I wanted to ask John a few questions about his album, and he obliged. Below is that little Q&A.

CFM: Are there hints of a consistent, underlying worldviews through the album? What do they say about the nature of reality, morality, and humanity? Are there ways in which this engages with, endorses or even challenges, your audience?

John Statz: I think that there are two underlying worldviews simmering throughout much of  Early Riser. One is a sense of unease with our modern world, both distress with the inequality that exists alongside extreme wealth and general anxiety that society is fraying at the edges. The other is a need to find your peace and your happiness, to live your life and grow, despite the chaos. This reflects my own personal experience with reality, one of ingesting news, caring deeply about it, getting upset, calling my representatives in congress, donating some money to a campaign or cause, and then needing to also step away for the sake of sanity. We can’t let ourselves become entirely consumed by this madness around us or we will spend years of our lives miserable. I also want to recognize the privilege in that last statement, as I can choose to remove myself from a reality that others cannot. I hope it challenges the audience to think about how they exist and experience life and joy in a world that can make it difficult.

CFM: How did current affairs shape the songs on Early Riser? How do they shape you as an artist and as a person?

John Statz: The first single “What Would You Call That?” was written in July of 2019, shortly after the president told four congresswomen of color, essentially, that they should “go back to where they came from”. I read many accounts from people of color on social media sharing how many times somebody had told them to go back to where they came from, I began to understand that this was a common racist remark which I had never experienced for obvious reasons, and I became mad. I mean, can you believe that there are people, many people, who are convinced that white privilege isn’t a real thing? So I wrote a song with a bunch of examples of it and asked, “what would you call that?”

As I said above, I’m a person who reads thed r news, listens to NPR, aneads presidential biographies in chronological order. (I’m on Benjamin Harrison.) News, history, politics, it’s all one and it’s in me.

CFM: Do any of the tracks express the point of view of different persona and character, like “Table in Between Us?” Or do they seem more autobiographical?

John Statz: Yes, “Table in Between Us” is definitely somebody else’s point of view. I don’t have any kids or a wife, as the song mentions. I wrote this song on tour in Italy a couple of years ago after a long conversation with a friend over there on the nature of romantic chances that pass you by. I took her point of view, basically, and made it sound like it could be about me. I guess that’s the exception on this record, though, everything else that sounds autobiographical mostly is.

CFM: Were there particular songs, or even lines, which stick in your mind because of their lyrics?

John Statz: I’m really proud of the co-write on the album, “All the Wild”, which was written at a songwriting retreat last summer with a fellow Colorado songwriter, Gabrielle Louise. The song is about how taming something – the wilderness, a child, a partner – changes that thing and potentially ruins what made it special. I love how each chorus changes, especially the last one on relationships: “all the wild has been tamed, the wonder covered up, by fear pride and blame, control and mistrust.” We worked really hard on that song, to make it make sense, and there are so many words!

CFM: Do you detect any clear purpose in the way the album is structured? Is there a sense of progression or grouping? Or does it seem more like a string of stand alone tracks?

John Statz: I wouldn’t say that they are stand-alone tracks, no. The songs are meant to fit together. They are very much a product of my life and the events around us during the year 2019, when most of these songs were written. There isn’t necessarily one tidy narrative that ties them together, but I do feel that they represent the balancing act I’ve lived in recently, and I hope others can relate. As for the progression or track order, I’m not sure on that, but the songs felt right in this order. I definitely wanted to open with “Rainy Days in the U.K.” as it pretty clearly lays out the balancing act, and I knew I wanted to close with the Joni cover, “Come in from the Cold”, which felt like a summary of covered territory.

CFM: What does the album’s title — Early Riser — reveal, if anything, about the album’s impact and themes?

John Statz: Early Riser is an insight into the duality of my experience with reality. I wake up early in the mornings, too early, when I’m stressed or feeling anxiety about the state of things. I also wake up early often so that I don’t miss anything, a sunrise, a chance to sip my coffee in a quiet house, or an early start on a hiking trail. One is stress, the other is dealing with stress.

CFM: What is it like to work with people you admire like Jeremy Moses Curtis, Jeffrey Foucault, and Billy Conway? What qualities do each individual bring to the album?

John Statz: Gosh, it has just been such an honor to work with people like Jeffrey, Jeremy, and Billy. Jeffrey, who produced my 2015 album  TULSA, is one of the absolute best living songwriters and a terrific mentor. Jeremy and Billy are the best rhythm section I can think of, all three are wonderful human beings. Jeremy and Billy were co-producers on this record alongside myself and Kate Hannington and their ideas are very much present in the songs, it was entirely a collaborative effort. Billy brings so much thought and purpose to his music-making, he has generally thought hard about something before he mentions it, and therefore his suggestions are always spot on. Jeremy is a natural with production, he hears a song clearly and takes it to the chopping block like a surgical pro. He knows how to trim the fat.

CFM: I read the Billy Conway has just been diagnosed with stage four liver cancer, how is he doing right now? Is there anything people can do to help Billy during this time? 

John Statz: I don’t know the ins and outs of Billy’s medical situation, but we’ve been in touch a bit and I know that he is hanging in there and still finding some joy and beauty in life. He just released his first-ever solo album, and the number one thing you can do to help him AND yourself is buy it and listen to it:  https://crazyviewrecords.com/. I’ve been singing along with the first track “Get Well” over and over, it’s a wonderful song for the times. There is also a spot on Billy’s website to donate to help cover his medical expenses, and I know every bit is extremely helpful to he and his partner Laurie.

Purchase Early Riser: Bandcamp; Amazon
John Statz: WebsiteFacebookTwitter; Bandcamp; Vimeo

What’s New, Tomboy? – Damien Jurado

Tomboy Cover Art

For years I hoped that and waited for Damien Jurado to make an appearance on Mountain Stage, and last summer my dream came true. And, just between you and me, I may or may not have cried when he walked on stage. His set was everything I could have wanted — quiet, intimate, warm, and entrancing. I did not leave disappointed, and I look forward to the next time I have the opportunity to see him live.

Now, on to Jurado’s new album, What’s New, Tomboy?

This is Jurado’s third full-length album in three years, 19th full-length album, and his second under Mama Bird Recording Co. His last album In the Shape of the Storm was pert near stripped to the bare bones containing only Jurado’s voice and acoustic guitar with the purposeful additions of guitar by Josh Gordon, whereas Tomboy is more fleshy with organ, drums, and bass guitar. However, in the midst of the fuller arrangements, Jurado is able to maintain an intimate, incandescent warmth.

What’s New, Tomboy plays like a collection of character poems from a contemporary Edgar Lee Masters with over half of the songs named for their subjects. The first being “Ochoa”, a tribute to his good friend and collaborator Richard Swift (born Ricardo Ochoa) who passed away in 2018. Jurado’s tender vocals combined with his gentle fingerpicking and evocative lyrics creates a touching eulogy. Other songs included in his character sketches are “Arthur Aware,” “Francine,” “Frankie,” “Fool Maria,” and “Sandra.”

“Fool Maria” is a finger-picked beauty with poignant lyrics like, “I am only living sentences/ That were long before I got here/And you are proof in flesh/ That God himself is behind this/You don’t need to understand/But truly you must live it/And I want you to be free/And I want to be at ease” feels like a private conversation between lovers or friends.

While “Alice Hyatt” is seemingly named after the main character in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. The song has some deep, and, maybe not so deep lyrics like, “Michael was the alphabet/ Susan was a play/ I was busy being myself/ There are things/There are people…Walk on by…Leave it be.” The meaning behind the song may be too much to unpack for this short blog, but I believe the meaning of the song is be yourself, keep moving, and leave those things that can’t be changed alone.



Stream What’s New, Tomboy? Spotify; Apple Music
Purchase What’s New, Tomboy? Bandcamp; Amazon; Rough Trade
Damien Jurado: Website; Facebook; Bandcamp
Mama Bird Recording Co.: Website; Bandcamp; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; YouTube; Spotify

The Neon Skyline – Andy Shauf

Neon Skyline
Canadian singer-songwriter, Andy Shauf, is truly gifted when it comes to storytelling and the narrative-based songs, and it really shows on his new album The Neon Skyline. He has the ability to transport his listeners into his world where we have the opportunity to watch what is happening first hand. Andy’s knack for conceptualizing albums around towns, parties, and about a couple of friends’ night out at the local pub talking about an ex who is back in town.

Each song on The Neon Skyline is an intimate bar stool dialogue accompanied by Shauf’s instrumentation and an easy soft-rock that masks the intensity of the subject and emotions. The Neon Skyline is a nostalgic collection of wistful songs laced with a sense of humor, but sounds like his relationship with Judy is lacking closure. Each song is a standard of quiet realizations and insights that most — if not all — adults have faced at some point their lives.







Andy Shauf: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram
Purchase The Neon Skyline: iTunesAmazon; Bandcamp

“Fortune” – Wye Oak

Wye Oak

Photo: Kendall Bailey Photography

I’m completely obsessed and enamored with Wye Oak’s most recent song, “Fortune”. I know, I know, I’m behind in the times again, but that’s what happens when life strikes and a two year old doesn’t leave you alone long enough to finish a thought. I just wanted to share the song and my humble thoughts on the track.

Anyway, back to the song. Wye Oak really hit the jackpot with this song. It’s a shimmering, glistening piece of dreamy-electronic-folk. It’s just as delicate as a fragile crystal while at the same time as strong and durable as a diamond. It’s one of the first times Jenn Waser and Andy Stack have lived in the same city since 2012, and it really shows – the constancy, the togetherness, and the maturity. This amazing piece of dreamy electronica swirls around and pulsates in your head while the guitar riffs in the chorus are unexpected and blows the mind. This is a song that would put Beach House to shame (and, that is just my opinion, folks). It’s probably one of the most attractive songs from Wasner and Stack in a while. Wye Oak aare golden with “Fortune”.

 

Purchase & Stream “Fortune”: BandcampAmazoniTunes; Spotify
Wye Oak: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram

Like The River Loves The Sea – Joan Shelley

joan shelley ltrlts

With every new album my love for Joan Shelley grows exponentially more, and I’m not sure if it’s possible to love someone this much.

So, let me tell you about her new album Like The River Loves the Sea, and it’s melancholic hope. Her sweet, delicate voice sounds beautifully wistful and mourning for love or something from the past. Her collaboration with partner Nathan Salsburg is always magically. The duo always knows how to play to each other’s strengths. Salsburg allows Joan’s voice room to breathe moving it to the front and center without any distraction, while Joan knows when to give Nathan his time to shine.

Joan Shelley is one of the reasons I have not given up on music. Her music is a salve to my music-tired soul and always fills my heart with the love of music and something else that I just can’t put my name on. In my opinion, she is one of the few artists making beautiful modern folk music. Her ability to mix the old sound with new is one of Joan’s greatest gifts. The music she creates never grows old and is the epitome of timelessness; however,  she has grown with every album since Ginko. With each album Joan has created a collection of songs that have been sheer perfection for that specific time, but it is this album that has set a benchmark for Joan’s discography and all of the albums to come.

Purchase Like The Rive Loves The Sea: Bandcamp; Apple Music; Amazon; No Quarter
Joan Shelley: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; YouTube

Remembering Jason Molina: The Great Lake Swimmers

Great Lake Swimmers - Harold-Zijp

Photo by Harold Zijp

 

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live.

A lot has happened since my last post last year — too much to even talk about in a blog post. I’ve been dealing with my son’s developmental issues, my mom’s health issues, my own health, and unemployment. Regardless of what I have been dealing with, I try my best to continue setting priorities and not pushing too hard, because this busy life of taking care of people often forces me to put things on the back burner. I’ve also rediscovered an old hobby that has totally taken over some of my free time, and, thankfully, I’m not finding myself burned out like I have with CFM.

Anyway, this past Spring, The Great Lakes Swimmers released a YouTube video session of Tony and company covering Magnolia Electric Company’s “The Dark Don’t Hide It”. I asked if someone from the group could share a few words about Jason and what his music has meant to them, and Tony Dekker was kind enough to share. I just feel bad that I haven’t posted this sooner…

MEC Ben Schreiner

Photo by Ben Schreiner

Several years ago we lost Jason Molina, a brilliant songwriter and a powerful voice in the world of independent music. I’ve been thinking about his songs a lot lately, especially while reading the book about his life, Riding With The Ghost by Erin Osmon. We had the honour of opening for Magnolia Electric Co. a few times over the years in places as disparate as Austin, Texas and Brussels, Belgium. Jason’s music has always meant a lot to me, as Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., and also in his solo albums and collaborations, and it is in regular rotation in our tour van. Our cover of  ‘The Dark Don’t Hide It’ by Magnolia Electric Co., recorded live for the Dutch series The Influences (Onder Invloed) is an homage to his influence and the body of work he gave us.

Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina
Jason Molina: Secretly Canadian, Graveface Records, Amazon
Magnolia Electric CoSecretly CanadianAmazon
Great Lakes SwimmersWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram, YouTubeShopAmazon

Video Premier: Jeremy Squires – “Fragments”

jeremysquires

Back in March, I premiered Jeremy Squire’s video for the song “Heaven” which will be on his upcoming album Poems. And, now, I’m premiering the video for another song off of the same album — “Fragments”. Jeremy has been working hard on the new album and has been releasing videos at a steady stream and each song and video just as good as the last. “Fragments” has the familiar Squires poetic lyrics that are wistfully romantic and intimate, but it also has a different sound that is more electric and percussion-driven.

This video as well as the others have me excited for his upcoming album. I don’t know when Poems will be completed, but in the meantime, you can check out Jeremy’s other videos on Adobe and Teardrops and One Chord To Another.

 

Jeremy Squires: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; YouTube; Spotify; Bandcamp

Olentangy John – EP Commuter

Olentangy John - Commuter

I have been a fan of Olentangy John (aka John Atzberger) since his last album Doggerel in 2012, and let us not forget that pretty awesome cover of Jason Molina’s “Whip-poor-will” he did for my Molina tribute project. Anyway, a very interesting guy, John makes guitars and is a student of Appalachian folk, folk, and music in general. His sound could always best be described as making the old sound new, but there is something more modern and unexplainable underlying the songs on his new EP, Commuter. A list of tracks that chronicle his commutes home in the Hudson Valley while also maintaining the common theme that life is always in motion changing and “commuting” — new jobs, moving to new homes and new towns, and becoming new parents. Commuter will be released on June 12th via Trailer Fire Records, and I hope everyone will listen because it will probably be the best thing you’ll hear today, tomorrow, and in the future.

 

Trailer Fire Records
Olentangy John: Facebook