Buddy Miller has tended to refer to the new Buddy and Julie Miller record, Breakdown On 20th Ave. South, as a Julie Miller solo project, with his wife having written a majority of the album’s 12 tracks.  True, the confessional batch of songs by the esteemed songwriter, her first in many years, is very Julie-centric; but that’s not to take away from the production and playmanship that Buddy brings to the proceedings.  Tense, tortured, seeking lyrics filtered through Buddy’s electric guitars makes for a combustive, exciting record that could only come from this very unique Nashville duo.  Find the album here.

A companion album to his last record, Jeff Tweedy’s new batch of tunes, Warmer,  continues the Wilco frontman’s abstract, sometimes apocalyptic introspection.  Perfect melodies.  Oblique lyrics.  And folk tunes full of hairpin turns.  You can find the album at most online retailers, or at the Wilco website.

Smoke-filled images drift about when listening to the self-titled release of Akron’s Broken Plank.  Backroad honky-tonks. Lost highways.  To the whir and hiss of a tape machine,  sad steel, and wicked guitar; the listener is swept up in a ghostly waltz among the stars.  You can stream and purchase this strange, haunted, beautiful album here.

On his new album, From Here to All of Time’s Entire, Cody J. Martin spins tales both tall and tender.  Across 10 blues/folk/Americana-infused tunes, the dynamic Martin spits out his singular brand of skewed colloquialisms and twisted religious idioms; grappling with hard love and ennui.  This righteous slice of rock-and-roll drops on August 23.  For more information or to preorder, go here.

Discoveries & Recommendations

Movies: Anima (2019)

Ida (2013)

Classic Albums: The Phipps Family, Faith, Love and Tragedy

David Benjamin Blower’s newest album, We Really Existed and We Really Did This, is a beautiful, heartbreaking meditation on our environmental sins and what it means for our future, our souls, and for the world to come.  The proceedings drift along on dust bowl melodies and poetic, anthemic wailings.  They inspire.  They convict.  They wound and heal, like any good prophesying is wont to do. The album is available at https://benjaminblower.bandcamp.com/ in both physical and digital forms, with extended readings and reflections on the physical copy.

On the National’s eighth record, I am Easy to Find, singer Matt Berninger shares the microphone with a roster of female vocalists, not to mention lyrical collaborations with his wife, Carin Besser.  These contributions breath a new kind of life into the already expansive sound of the veteran band, and adds a dimension of push and pull that, intentional or not, echoes our culture at large.  You can purchase the album in all its forms at the band’s website, americanmary.com.

Damien Jurado’s record, In the Shape of a Storm, is his first since the death of collaborator Richard Swift.  Throughout their many records together, Swift pushed Jurado’s quiet tunes into expansive, psychedelic soundscapesAlone again, Jurado strips everything down to vocals and guitar, his oblique reflections on love and death are put front and center and seen through a new lens. The album is available for purchase at most online retailers, but a good place to start would be here and here.

In the upcoming months, Wilder Adkins will officially release his new album, In This Pilgrim Way, where the soulful Birmingham artist interprets old standards like “Softly and Tenderly” and “In the Garden”, while adding a few of his own hymns to the gospel mix.  “I’m all peace on the outside, and fury within,” sings Adkins. “I am still running for the light”—a sentiment worthy of Charles Wesley.  To preorder the album, both in vinyl or digital forms, visit https://wilderadkins.bandcamp.com/

Discoveries & Recommendations

Books: You! Jonah!  by Thomas John Carlisle

Movies: The Sisters Brothers

Classic Albums: Jackson C. Frank, Self-Titled

Podcasts: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

 

hallowell

When the first Bifrost Arts record came out (Come O’ Spirit), one of its contributors, Joseph Pensak, released a B-side to the record called “Come Unto Me You Weary”.  As with the other Bifrost tunes, the simple hymn stood in vivid contrast to much of the “worship” music of its day.  It had a quiet melody, an unpredictable arrangement, and vocal performances that ache.

Some 10 years later, Pensak has enlisted a number of Vermont (and beyond) musicians, to help him expand on those initial Bifrost outpourings on his new record, Hallowell.  He draws inspiration both far and wide, from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, to ancient hymns, to REM and the Breeders.  These eccentricities fit well with the output of Great Comfort Records, founded by Lenny Smith and family (Danielson).  The Smiths have been recording and releasing gospel music that doesn’t fit the rigid framework of conventional worship music, looking instead to songs that emphasize melody and poetry over structure.  Hallowell fits nicely in this unique catalogue, as Pensak and his friends grapple with faith, with the unknown, with the weight of glory across 10 beautiful tunes.

Hallowell will be released on March 22.  You can purchase the album here and here.

Year in Review: 2018

January 3, 2019

Movies watched: 

The Room (2003)

Tangerine (2015)

The Post (2018)

To Die For (1995)

Frances Ha (2013)

The Shape of Water (2017)

The Hustler (1961)

A Stupid and Futile Gesture (2018)

Mulan (1998)

Rebecca (1940)

Phantom Thread (2017)

My Fair Lady (1964)

Mother! (2017)

Mary Poppins (1964)

Mistress America (2015)

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Ladybird (2017)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Field of Dreams (1989)

Black Panther (2018)

The Foreigner (2017)

Good Time (2017)

It (2017)

Brigsby Bear (2017)

The Lost Boys (1987)

Ready Player One (2018)

Diabolique (1955)

Tron (1982)

Detroit (2017)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Infernal Affairs (2002)

Close-Up (1990)

The Fountainhead (1949)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Legends of the Fall (1994)

Thoroughbreds (2018)

Coco (2017)

The Week Of (2018)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Goldfinger (1965)

Hairspray (1988)

Swing Time (1936)

First Reformed (2018)

Grease (1978)

Go West (1940)

The Big Store (1941)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

The Incredibles 2 (2018)

Grey Gardens (1975)

Tommy (1975)

Annihilation (2018)

Unsane (2018)

Spielberg (2017)

Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Brawl in Cell block 99 (2017)

Isle of Dogs (2018)

You Were Never Really Here (2017)

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

The Death of Stalin (2018)

All About Eve (1950)

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

The Rider (2018)

The Florida Project (2017)

The Death of Superman (2018)

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Tully (2018)

A Star is Born (2018)

Venom (2018)

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018)

Ocean’s Eight (2018)

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

The African Queen (1951)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

A Quiet Place (2018)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Shirkers (2018)

Rocky (1976)

Thief (1981)

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Roma (2018)

 

Books read:

Frederick Buechner, “Lion Country”

Warren Zanes, “Petty: the Biography”

Unknown, “The Way of a Pilgrim”

Frederick Buechner, “The Clown in the Belfry: Writings on Faith and Fiction”

G.K. Chesterton, “The Man Who Was Thursday”

Greg Kot, “I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers and the March Up Freedom’s Highway”

Jack Miles, “God: A Biography”

N.T. Wright, “Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians”

Frederick Buechner “The Eyes of the Heart: A Memoir of the Lost and Found”

Bishop Kallistos Ware, “The Orthodox Way”

Hazel Dickens & Bill C. Malone, “Working Girl Blues: The Life and Music of Hazel Dickens”

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux “Poems of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux”, translated by Alan Bancroft

Don DeLillo, “White Noise”

Henry Glassie, Clifford R. Murphy, & Douglas Dowling Peach “Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line”

Harpo Marx with Rowland Barber, “Harpo Speaks!”

Mary Strong, “Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood”

Jeff Tweedy, “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back)”

N.T. Wright, “Paul for Everyone: 2 Corinthians”

 

Favorite albums:

Anna & Elizabeth, “The Invisible Comes to Us”

Son Lux, “Brighter Wounds”

Damien Jurado, “The Horizon Just Laughed

David Benjamin Blower, “Hymns for Nomads”

The Innocence Mission, “The Sun on the Square”

John Prine, “The Tree of Forgiveness”

Nathan Salsburg, “Third”

Laura Gibson, “Goners”

Martha Scanlan, “The River and the Light”

Loretta Lynn, “Wouldn’t It Be Great”

Jeff Tweedy, “Warm”

horizon

A week or two ago, I attended a pre-release listening party for one of my favorite artists. Under the dim lights of Canton’s Deli Ohio restaurant, after hours, I scribbled a few thoughts down as Damien Jurado’s new record spun.  I added a few more later, the sound still lingering…

 

Gray skies over Canton. A whirling April snow. Red lights turn to green.

A voice is carried along on the reverb; a winding stream. It sinks into the wood grain.

Thomas Wolfe. Bruce Springsteen.

Otis Redding. Percy Faith.

Lost in America; stuck in the 70s.

Bob Dylan. Bill Fay.

The red of the exit sign. The hum of the cooler.

Leonard Cohen tells a crude joke.

Lazarus and resurrection. Jonah bouncing around Nineveh.

Old Testament fire. New Testament glory.

A life detached.  A glass darkly.

Charlie Brown on the streets of Laredo.

 

The horizon just laughed.

 

“The Horizon Just Laughed” will be released on May 4th.