Samantha Crain : Elk City

Wonderful, intimate performance of a lovely song, taken from her new-ish album Under Branch & Thorn & Tree.

 

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The Honey Dewdrops : Tangled Country

The Honey Dewdrops Tangled Country album cover jpeg

Tangled Country is the 4th album by Baltimore’s The Honey Dewdrops. Not a trace to be found of the Wire’s gritty, ugly urbanism on it, thankfully.

The Honey Dewdrops are on the way to carving themselves a niche of exceedingly fine purveyors of the lonesome, gentle side of Alternative Country. Young was the first track of theirs I ever heard, and it quickly became clear to me, that their music was exactly my cup of tea. It’s a poignant summarization of the feeling many of us can relate to (certainly I can) of not being that young anymore and finding yourself slightly bewildered by the changes taking place to anybody else’s lifestyle, except you. The only thing preventing it from becoming a classic for me are its rather modern lyrics with their allusions to flat screen TV’s, Bluetooth and Facebook.

There’s a number of outstanding songs on here, such as the aforementioned Young. But this excellent song gets topped by Loneliest Songs – which is simply stunningly beautiful and lovely. One of the best songs I have heard in a long while. Plus, it’s pretty much the only song I can think of on which the bass is the instrument I like best, it’s plucking away wonderfully and forlornly in the background. Their masterpiece of a song so far, I’d say (not having heard any of their other records). Also excellent is the gorgeous Numb, the song most veering towards conventional country music sounds, I love the harmonica on here a whole lot.

The instrumental album closer Remington is quite amazing too, although it’s making do without Laurie Wortman’s enchanting vocals which are contributing substantially to making most songs on Tangled Country especially wonderful.

I am most probably not the only that has to think about Gillian Welch & David Rawlings listening to their music. And the fact that they do not quite reach that other, slightly more famous couple’s mile high class, can only be attributed to Welch and Rawlings being so far above and beyond anybody else in the field of this kind of music, at least in my book. BUT, on this very fine album, they definitely do come rather close to that on a number of songs. An album to cherish for a long, long time.

A fine live version of Loneliest Songs (without that fabulous bass of the album version, unfortunately).

 

Gillian Welch : Hard Times

Most everybody knows Hard Times, and in case you don’t, here’s the skinny. It was written by Stephen (Collins) Foster and published in 1854. The first audio recording of it was released in 1905 (if Wikipedia is right). There have been dozens (probably more like hundreds) of recordings done since by the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith ( I would love to hear Iron & Wine’s, undoubtedly fine, version too, but couldn’t find it anywhere). Of course I don’t know all of them, but I simply cannot imagine there’s one better and more beautiful one than Gillian Welch’s. And Dave Rawlings’, I should add. I always thought it a shame they are referred to simply as Gillian Welch, as his contributions, mainly on the guitar, are crucial to what is making most of their songs so wonderful and good. Hard Times is no exception to this. The typically reduced simple banjo and acoustic guitar arrangement is absolutely befitting a song like Hard Times, not to mention Welch’s unmistakable voice. It’s taken from 2011’s The Harrow & The Harvest. Dave Rawlings Machine’s new album Nashville Obsolete is out on September 18th and most probably one of 2015’s outstanding releases. Rejoice (I certainly am).