Folk/Country

FRESH CUTS: On “Goosebumps,” Gregory Uhlmann Stretches Time

photo credit: Jacob Boll

L.A.-based art-folk auteur Gregory Uhlmann (guitarist and vocalist with local act Fell Runner) has today released “Goosebumps,” an atmospheric one-off single—following up on his Neighborhood Watch album of last July—on Topshelf Records.

 

The art-folk track begins humbly with a simple muted acoustic drum fill, announcing the entry of two strummed nylon-string guitars and an hypnotic, elliptic bass line. The atmosphere of the recording is warm and open, quickly inviting the listener into its center.

Uhlmann’s voice is alternately deeply resonant and choir-boy pure, with a bit of breathiness, especially during the chorus, where his voice fades into a deep ocean of reverb on a single syllable. The addition of a gooey, tremoloed synth about halfway through the song changes the flavor but does so tastefully, as does the entrance of plucked instruments, pitched somewhere between mallets and a ticking clock, along with oceanic synth pads that resemble a school of shimmering sea creatures.

By the time the swelling single-note guitar lines double Uhlmann’s vocal melody and a lone, perfectly-timed cymbal crash signals the conclusion of the song, the listener has been taken on a unique aural journey, where contrasting timbres that shouldn’t fit well together still somehow manage to do so. Gabe Hernandez

   

VIDEO: On “Monochrome,” Runnner Sets Faded Memories To Music

photo credit: Nell Sherman & Silken Weinberg

Runnner is the project of native Angeleño songwriter Noah Weinman. He’s recently released a music video for “Monochrome,” the latest single from his upcoming debut album for Run For Cover Records, Always Repeating, released July 16th.

The track fades in with fingerpicked acoustic guitar and banjo, with what sound like reversed electric guitar lines, all swelling into a beautiful, abstract mix, before drums kick in to establish a vaguely rollicking shuffle, dropping out to allow Weinman’s plaintive, double-tracked vocals space to enter. He sings with masterful restraint while the guitars and banjo provide delicate rhythmic emphasis on his lyrics. The music and vocals slowly build in emotional intensity, along with volume, squeezing every possible bit of pathos out of the highly personal lyrics.

“Although this isn’t the oldest song in the batch,” begins Weinman, “this feels like the first Runnner song…It’s about nuance and memory, and how hard it can be to remember something in all its color and detail. Part of me fights against that and tries to remember everything, but part of me also resigns to it.” The video was created by Weinman with the help of Helen Ballentine.

Runnner will celebrate the release of Always Repeating with two L.A.-area shows: a sold-out show July 22nd at Baader house, and a December 3rd gig at the Lodge Room in Highland Park. Gabe Hernandez

   

Introducing Lizzie Donohue

In March of this year Lizzie Donohue played her first live performance, in virtual form natch, as part of a live-streaming benefit for Save The Scene—a benefit organized by Pan Arcadia (recently profiled in this space) together with the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund in support of fellow independent artists during the lockdown.

In the midst of two evenings full of fine musical entertainment Lizzie caught my ear with her two-song acoustic set (see above) and most of all with the sheer presence of her voice—a voice both smoky and sweet, kind of like Kansas City barbecue sauce in audible form (insider tip: most voices can be compared to regional barbecue sauces) or, in case you’re a vegetarian, a voice that's one of those gritty-pretty voices where you're likely to assume the speaker’s got a chest cold or some other similar ailment, but then it turns out it’s just their normal singing/speaking voice like with say Tina Turner or Rod Stewart or Bonnie Tyler, or legendary late-night NYC radio DJ Allison Steele (aka The Nightbird) which suggests a possible alternative career path for Ms. Donohue should she ever need one.

But probably not on the new career path, because as revealed in an exclusive interview with Deli Mag, Lizzie Donohue recently acquired a degree in Textile Design and Photography from FIT and already does freelance graphic design work on the side, including band logo design, and we all know lots of bands out there with ill-considered logos or no logo at all, so it sounds like lucrative work to me. But back to the music. Lizzie’s first song in the virtual concert performance above is now her first officially released single and it’s called “What’s it Matter.” Opening with some strummed guitar chords, the rhythm section soon kicks in alongside Lizzie’s voice reading you the riot grrrl act (“Hey, fuck you / you gotta pretty face but that don’t make you cool”) and really you had it coming didn’t you? But the the blow is softened by the quality of her voice, thus making for a compelling juxtaposition. So you see it’s complicated.

And it’s further complicated by another insight gleaned during our interview, namely that Lizzie sees herself singing the song to herself as much as to anyone else. So when she gets to the next lines about “what’s it matter if I dye my hair blue?” and “all the things I say just come out lame / what’s it matter anyway?” she’s basically saying why worry about socially-mandated appearances or SAT-enforced verbal skills when it’s more important to just be yourself and put yourself out there. So basically it's like an Id vs. Super-Ego situation we got going on here (“I’m completely aware that I’m my own worst enemy”) if you happen to be into psychoanalytic theory.

These lyrical sentiments are supported by an uncluttered pop-rock arrangement that's got some nice, subtle flourishes like the occasional up-the-neck bass notes and the faint, breathy background vocal at 1:22 (something we'd love to hear more of just sayin') and the cool slide-guitar-break-down-and-build-it-back-up section that comes soon after. Incidentally, “What's it Matter” was produced and mixed by Dylan Kelly who plays guitar and keys for Pan Arcadia (those guys again!) and plays bass and lead guitar on this single, a recording laid down in a friend's basement DIY home studio somewhere out on Long Island using camping tents for isolation booths which is a pretty cool idea.

And speaking of Long Island musical happenings, Ms. Donohue hails from Nassau County (on the westernmost edge of L.I. directly adjacent to Queens) which is the ancestral home of one Lou Reed. So it’s fitting that 1) Lizzie opened her Save The Scene set by noting that is was Lou Reed’s birthday; and 2) her second number was a Velvet Underground cover. And a well chosen one at that, namely “After Hours,” the last track on the Velvets' self-titled third album a.k.a. the mellow one, sung by drummer Maureen "Moe" Tucker. Like a lot of Lou Reed’s best-known songs, "After Hours" expertly walks the line between nihilism and humanism but leans more toward the latter, thanks to Tucker’s sweet lullaby-like but rough-hewn singing on what’s essentially an impish music hall number about staying in and finding comfort in solitude, but longing for human contact at the same time. Needless to say the song fits Lizzie’s voice like a glove and she adds some vocal flourishes of her own, including a brief fit of giggling at the end when she flubs a guitar chord. (even her mistakes are charming, and if you wanna hear an original take on a similar theme you can listen to “Going Nowhere Slow” on Lizzie’s Soundcloud page)

Besides Lou and VU, Ms. Donohue is also a fan of Patti Smith, Pavement (a car stereo staple whilst driving around aimlessly with her friends in Long Island), Alanis Morissette, and Mazzy Star among others and hey that's a pretty good list. Personally I’m also reminded of the female pop songwriter renaissance of the late ‘90s moving into the aughts with artists like Lily Allen, Avril Lavigne, and Nina Persson of the Cardigans (each of whom, in different ways, take riot grrrl-like attitude and wrap it in deceptively "mild girl" packaging) but maybe that’s just me. Lizzie says her upcoming EP will cover topics and themes such as outer space, Elon Musk, and the movie Heathers so you may wanna stay tuned. (Jason Lee)

   

Dallas Burrow Delivers Blast from the Past with New Single

 Those who love old-school sounding country will be thrilled about its resurgence into the world of contemporary music. Texas native Dallas Burrow proves once again that he belongs on the list of artists who are bringing this kind of music back into the forefront. His latest single, Born Down in Texas, doesn’t shy away at all from the roots and tradition that have helped him obtain the success he’s had thus far. This tune consists of a western, Americana vibe, and Burrow’s superb songwriting is complemented by a team of musicians who unquestionably understand the importance of the tradition that Burrow is grounded in. 

The twangy electric guitar intro immediately paints imagery of being on the open road, driving through barren Texas land. Then Burrow’s smooth vocal delivery contrasts perfectly with the gritty and haunting instrumentation. The first artist that comes to mind when hearing this track is the legendary Townes Van Zandt. Burrow draws similarities to the Texas country icon with his use of rich, poetic lyrics that speak about struggle and life on the road. Additionally, Burrow manages to capture the eerie sort of feeling that Townes displayed on songs like Waiting Around to Die and Lungs. And though Burrow has surrounded himself with excellent musicians who add substantial value to his sound, none of the players interfere with the story being told. In fact, Burrow’s band even further magnifies the poeticism of his lyrics. 

The lyrics seem to be about the unyielding decision to always call Texas home, despite the temptations that come along with constant travel and the inevitably of being pulled into new experiences elsewhere. This is emphasized with the lyrics, “Lobbin down in Louisiana, chasing that voodoo thing/Take me back to Texas, lord so I can hear the angels sing,” as well as “I was born down in Texas, that’s where they’ll bury me/Give my love to that woman up in Memphis, Tennessee.” Throughout his journeys, Burrow has been lured away by love, curiosity, and opportunity. But no matter what, Texas will always be home. 

Many musicians of today often feel pressured to sound modern or “with the times” in order to be associated with the most popular forms of music. Dallas Burrow unrelentingly steers away from the overly polished, pop-country sound coming out of Nashville. Instead, he stays true to the western, outlaw country that contributed mightily to his upbringing. Born Down in Texas is an organic powerhouse and another perfect example of why trusting your intuition as an artist should always come first.

Check out Dallas' new self-titled album, out July 23rd.

 

-- Quinn Donoghue


 

   

Songs of Summer #1: "Heatstroke Summer" by Charlotte Rose Benjamin

The jury’s still out on what (no doubt worthy) song will end up being officially designated the Song of the Summer 2021™ and far be it for us to even acknowledge such a hackneyed premise. But hey that doesn’t mean we can’t start our own highly unofficial list based around a hackneyed premise because who says summer deserves only one song so take that Billboard and Tik Tok Nation. And so here we reveal our first entry in the Deli's summer song playlist, an unparalleled honor bestowed upon Charlotte Rose Benjamin’s “Heatstroke Summer.”

Now mind that this is a song some would call a “B-side” using the no-longer popular parlance (ask your parents) but here at DeliCorp we openly acknowledge that this is a B-side kind of blog so it’s totally fitting. And even Ms. Benjamin herself has stated an affinity for musical obscurities such as B-sides and "deep cuts" (ask your parents) to the extent that she wrote an entire tender aching ballad based around the notion of deep cuts named, quite fittingly, “Deep Cut" based around the premise: “Songs are are like lovers / and if it was a record / we’d be the deep cut / that no one remembered.”

But I digress. Let’s get back to summer songs shall we because right now there’s a good chunk of this country that's undergoing a relentless heatwave like here in New York City with a forecast high of 97 tomorrow, or Seattle and Portland which hit 108 and 116 degrees yesterday (wut?) which is a full 18 degrees above recommended boy band temperature. And that’s not even to mention Canada’s westernmost province British Columbia reaching 116 degrees yesterday which shattered national records. So, you see, if we don’t get around to naming a designated Song of the Summer 2021™ soon we’ll all be melted into a congealed mass of musical indecisiveness before this week is even over.

But I digress again. On “Heatstroke Summer” Charlotte Rose sketches a sonic portrait made up of fleetingly observed slices of life with an evocative Zen-like concision like in the opening lines—“Heatstroke summer / yellow is the color / cowboy in Corona / but the beat goes on and on”—which is either about a cowboy living in Queens or living through coronavirus or possibly both because before long she observes that “you can’t prepare for death anyway.”

And hey I’m not gonna spell out the whole song for you but there’s an appears to be a theme of escape running through some of the lyrics (piña coladas optional) with the song’s narrator dreaming about it being New Year’s Eve again and weighing an invitation to hit the road for parts unknown, until the song’s extended coda rides off into the sunset with overheated dogs barking in the background and an intertwined guitar solo that’s equal parts jangly and distorted/dissonant much like the jangled, destroyed nerves of a heatstroke victim. But with the overall gentle swaying vibe, and with Ms. Benjamin’s voice being as winsome and gentle as a tall glass of pink lemonade, "Heatstroke Summer" is equally suitable listening for backyard barbecues and existential (or literal) meltdowns alike.

And hey we can't ignore the A-side of this two-sided single which is called “Cumbie’s Parking Lot” in reference to Massachusetts-based convenience store chain Cumberland Farms (aka Cumbies) which just happens to be the state where CRB was raised before she returned to her ancestral home of New York City where her parents launched careers as a dancer and a musician/TV jingle singer. Anyway she seems to have a fairly solid grasp of the typical thought patterns of Cumbie's parking lot denizens expressing sentiments like “I wanna separate my brain from my body / I want you to let me use you like a drug” and “I don’t wanna go home yet / you can take pictures of me and post them on the Internet.”

And even if summer isn’t explicitly mentioned it feels strongly implied with the theme of escape still to the fore—escaping home, escaping the city, escaping oneself—and with the phrase “I wanna” employed nearly as much as on a Ramones song. And when the song reaches its first chorus the whole thing opens us like a blooming summer flower with sweet fragrant melodies and lush floating harmonies that'll hit your senses like a face full of pollen (in musical terms it's something like taking all 35 volumes of AM Gold and distilling them into one single refrain).

And hey if the songs don’t do it for you right away then the accompanying music videos just might ("Cumbie's Parking Lot" is even directed by CRB herself) because there’s a clear aesthetic at work. Though be forewarned that based on the video above you really don’t wanna ask Charlotte Rose to serve you up a slice of cake, because she approaches the task of cake cutting like Jason Voorhees and his mother approach cutting up summer campers and you probably don’t wanna drink your cake through a straw. But it’s a minor misgiving and you were already forewarned in the song “Deep Cut” after all. 

But I digress one last time. So anyway now you've at least got somewhere to start with your summer-themed listening and you can continue to check this space for more to come. (Jason Lee)