Folk/Country

Entering The Atmosphere: New Margaret Chavez Record Dreams Big

 

Into An Atmosphere, Marcus William Striplin's excellent sophomore LP under his folky Americana project Margaret Chavez, is a haunting, soothing, fully-enveloping record. 

 

Across eight tracks, Striplin pulls few punches. From taking listeners through familial trauma at an ICE detention center in "The Croupiers Unite I.C.E. ("To be a cat licking your paws in front of an ice detention bus") to the power-driven wrestling match in "I Virgo" ("Forever keeper of the past//you use your powers to advance and cripple") the record achieves the evergreen without watering down the present. 

 

Just when the terms of engagement appear to be dictated, Striplin kicks up the dust and unleashes swelling synths and psychedelic guitar textures, making for a markedly different soundscape. ("H O R A" shines bright.) Though occasionally feeling almost sparse or trim, the record has adequate space between the sobering emotional stakes evoked throughout. 

 

For all of its elegance, quiet, and restraint, Into An Atmosphere is also a decisive, dynamic, and effective shout.

 


- Ben Wiese

 

   

Honey Cellar "In Our Time"

Folk Rock group Honey Cellar has released their debut album, In Our Time. This is the work of Catherine Krol (Vocals, piano, bass), Danny Connolly (Vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar), Lucy Holden (Vocals, violin, mandolin), and Joey Buttlar (Drums, percussion). For this album they were joined by Christopher Elam on bass and Emma McLean on Cello.

This is nostalgia-driven, mixed with of a touch of Irish inspiration, Folk and Chamber pop complete with banjo, violin, and an array of lovely harmonies.

   

Russel Taine Jr. Releases “Blue Jean Baby” Single

 

If you think mezcal and some brick weed make for a pretty fine summer evening, then Russel Taine Jr. might have a new anthem for you to add into your rotation. The band is back with another song for quarantine summer, this time with the rocking, radio-ready cut “Blue Jean Baby”.

Russel Taine Jr. features Aaron Winston (lyrics/guitar/vocals), Justin Winslow (bass), Brittany Long (keys) and Cory Fica (drums). As the band members continued to record through stay-at-home orders, the longing for summers past crept up in mind. “July 4th fireworks - and a dance and a drink down at the White Horse...a love song for a Texas summer without COVID.” It can be migraine-inducing to reach far enough backward for memories of a carefree August, but the sparkling guitar of “Blue Jean Baby” instantly conjures images of sun-soaked sands and glistening waters.

Right from the jump, Winston’s vocals are situated apart from the instrumental, mixed to give them just enough separation to stand out, especially in the verses. His voice sits somewhere to the left of Jack Johnson - just a little more verve, but still free and easy enough to coast this song through. It’s a smile-inducing melody that’s easy enough to pick up and hold onto, with a smashing singalong chorus.

With many country music acts forced to reckon with the pandemic and protests and alter their release plans, or scrap them altogether (except you, Kenny Chesney), Summer 2020 radio has been drier than usual. We have plenty of indie and alternative-tinged tunes to take away the pain, but when the setting just calls for good times, not too many have been willing to answer this year. Thankfully, Russel Taine Jr. decided to keep recording and releasing at their own pace. This might not be the summer they wanted, but who says they can’t pretend?

- Mike Floeck 

   

BBsitters Club "Same As Before"

BBsitters Club has released the lead single, "Same As Before", from their forthcoming debut studio album, BBsitters Club & Party, which is due out via Hausu Mountain on October 16th.

This is the work of Doug Kaplan and Charlie Olvera on guitars and vocals, Max Allison on bass, and Paul Birhanu on drums. Kaplan and Allison are the co-founder of the band's label and also perform as the duo Pepper Mill Rondo. The sound of BBsitters Club is a blend of Jam Band, Country, Prog, and straight ahead Classic Rock.

   

Bill Callahan Releases New Album Gold Record

 

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” is as startling to read here as it is to hear on the opening of Bill Callahan’s Gold Record. Sparse guitar riffs and faint trumpet notes guide the listener through the Tejano lullaby “Pigeons.” Calahan’s description of the romantic saga is as elusive as his voice:

“Deep in the heart of Texas, life and love go sleepily on,” Callahan writes on his Bandcamp page. “From the wheel of his long white limousine, a man witnesses scenes from many lives. Musically commencing with Cash and rambling to Cohen suggests that whether the wedding rice explodes in your belly or you end up married to the whole wide world, there’s a place for you on this Earth.”

For the past seven weeks, Drag City has released a different single from the album, offering a preview and pre-order for the September release. Callahan offers Gold Record in multiple formats including cassette, compact disc, vinyl and digital. The current releases are as dense as a novel, allowing the listener to pick up on different insights of the characters with each listen.

It’s hard to know how many personal anecdotes Callahan includes with his work, as fictional characters take the place of himself. “Let’s Move to the Country” describes a blossoming relationship, the character leaving traveling behind to settle down and start a family. This may provide a link from Callahan’s characters into his personal life, as he married Hanly Banks in 2014 and became a father, and took a significant break in recording.

The seven released tracks are held together with a cohesive sound, forcing the listener to observe the lyrics. In an interview with Texas Monthly earlier this year, Callahan cited Willie Nelson as an influence for visual storytelling. Though Callahan was describing a line from his previous release Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, the material on Gold Record feels connected to the writing style of Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger.

Follow the release of Callahan’s Gold Recordhere: https://billcallahan.bandcamp.com/album/gold-record

 

-Andrew Blanton