The NBT Review 51

Durango (April17 – April30) – The Coal Porters (Prima Records)

It’s apt that, when talking about this release, Sid Griffin makes several mentions of how proud he is of the music contained within, because this is a set of songs that explore in subtle and diffuse ways the sense of self worth, even in difficult situations and times.

It is also full of darkness and humour, quiet anger tinged frissons and huge sighs of hope and that’s just on the opening two tracks, where a (maybe) murder ballad is subverted into a wild gleeful hoedown (Let’s Say Goodbye..) and in ‚No More Chains, the band takes the listener on a country spiritual drive through simple yet dense images of a long dreamed of freedom

Fiddle player Carly Frey takes lead vocals on the tender tempest of‘Moonlight Midnight‘and we realise that most of the songs are about or set in the hard heart of night, that they talk about the dawn, the sunlight, with the wistful lament, of the almost empty bar, the all night clerk, the sound and emotion of the trains shuffling past, half noticed as we sleep.

There are songs of drinking here too, created with an understanding and compassion rare for popular music. No lectures given, no fingers pointed.

And this fine band even find time to take on Neil Young‘s ballad of fear and desire, ‘Like A Hurricane‘ and make it seem like a gentle crush, a country swoon, a dance ‘tween lovers who already know each others secrets but smile and swing anyway.

From mandolin to dobro and all manner of instruments in between the playing on this album is thoughtful, alive and deeply emotional, no solo unnecessary, no chorus too much. The passion conceived here stays long after the final song has played.

Go out there and buy this, it deserves to be in as many homes as is possible.

  http://www.sidgriffin.com/

You can hear tracks from this album and the thoughts from the musicians on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010.

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 50

With The Eye Of A Skeptic… – Bill Price (Grass Magoops Records)

This is old time Country dance, girl boy harmonies against a roots rocking band led by the jubilant skitter of the Cittern (a sort of large bodied mandolin.) This is not all though; this is the personal political, the thoughtful, the wishful, the dreamer making songs, the watcher singing.

We hear about the Junkman who learns about life in the bits and pieces he collects, the secrets we throw away without even knowing it. We debate within a blues swing room about the soul of modern art then to the strains of a lilting lullaby like tune we are taken flying.

In his dreams, in this flight,  years roll by jumbled, villains are given the chance to be heroes , history is scrambled and re-sighed re-written and hope is rescued from the cynic’s prison.

Price may see these things, these choices, with the eye of a skeptic, but his belief in good, in the right decisions maybe being made, the fact that the future is really fragile and can be broken into something beautiful; is what makes this collection a gift.

In the song ‘’Foot In The Dirt’’ the simple act, the lucid description of how it feels..Just to cast away the heavy of the day and ..Walk, touches this listener because that escape has often been MY escape too.

So jump slow and jump calm into these songs and stories, get caught up in the seemingly effortless virtuoso playing of all involved and welcome this gentle raconteur into your home.

http://www.billprice.info

Analog Love – Cassis and the Sympathies (Wunderblumenmusik)

Benign, serene coming down from the clouds willfully we slow dive into Analog Love, a neon lit lounge, default setting on sultry, though  soon enough we allow the lady to take our hand and dance us into a wide open cinema land.

This is new wave old romantic, ambient, impulsive, addictive, a darker Julee Cruise, a content Nico, still slightly dangerous, a sweetly lethal bubblegum, deep blue tripping over the rhythm disguised as sighs.

There is that skewed perspective that Lydia Lunch gave on Queen Of Siam, though this time the chanteuse is backed by a mixture of Yello and seemingly old time wicked jazz musicians playing for their souls.

In these songs disturbing desire is just, always JUST,  a finger click away. These are invitations to a languid version of Hell, an acceptably edgy version of Heaven. Piano and Accordion entice and bewitch in the guise of slick warped ballads, tears and escape, they urge us to close our eyes and

Sink.

A cool journey away from the modern normal.

http://www.cassisvision.com/

Hear Tracks from BOTH these albums on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 49

Lunchbox  – Richard Kapp and the Gowns (Independent Release)

It is a delectable irony that the opening track “It’s Too Loud‘‘demands to be played rather loudly. It‘s the kind of thing that gets the listener swaying about in their room, or on the street even (if heard on an iPod or mp3 player) conducting an imaginary orchestra. A song about loneliness perhaps but a song that uplifts at the same time, eccentric pop then.

Let this be said straight away, this band suits Mr. Kapp.  And his style, his droll take on love, life and other potential disasters suit this band. It’s almost like, mmm, that with fellow musicians aiding and abetting his creations he can get even more personal than previously allowed.

The title track now sweetly sways with nostalgia drifting from images of peace to feelings of loss then back again, then flying through wonderful harmonies, it quirkily goes schizophrenic on us.

‘’Selling Them Your Love’’ invokes the spirit of Belle and Sebastian, even a chamber pop version of the Lightning Seeds while ‘’So Dirty’’ is a gently elegant smutty show tune with added restrained vocals dips and dots from Woodstock Taylor. The Broadway version of Stephen Merritt would be proud!

Sometimes there is lonely heartbreaking trumpet, sometimes a swoon of crystal clear female vocals, sometimes the piano playing comes into sharp focus, sometimes all this and more fades away lost willingly in the ambiguous emotional heart within the collection.

Then in, ‘’Another Town’’ Kapp along with guest Ina Simone capture exactly what makes a pop ballad work. No whine , no angst, no over emoting dramatics here, something simple, almost country, utterly captivating for now this is my favourite song in the set. A Dreamy companion to ‘Wake Up’ from Asterisk.

As always this is an album that will reveal more every time it gets played and is the perfect progression for Richard Kapp and his band the Gowns.

http://www.richardkapp.com/

Catch songs from this release on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 48

Some Moths Drink The Tears Of Elephants – Boister (Piano Parasite Productions)

Ah this delightful disturbance, this redemption in the darkness. Do you know how ghostly carnival lights seem, from a distance, on a rainy night? This is the soundtrack to that feeling.

Produced by legendary maverick/storyteller Jim Dickinson, who once channeled the sweet twilight of Big Star into something eternal, this collection, seems to be ancient Pop, perhaps even tomorrow’s Americana, Though with wonderful contradiction,  there is a fragmented European soul breathing between the lines too.

It starts with a languid gasp perhaps sigh , definite slow motion thoughts catching up to the moment, the music subtly builds, the room the picture fills with detail, the story unfolds ragged yet elegant. Funeral music that makes you feel very much alive.

Then a lullaby morphs into a sly grin take on Brecht, the band swaggers, the curtains, windows, thrown open onto a vibrant street gathering, a party full of tension.

Then a drum thing that seems to be slowed fractured down sympathy for the devil grooving into horns and guitar, washing up against the vocals, then without noticing we have slid into a perfect rock song sway, a gift with gentle hooks that we will be humming months from now.

These are tunes that are built fragile, crafted intricate standing there, the title track: quick take a snapshot before it all falls down, but it never falls down, no matter how harsh the rhythms that swirl around it, rudely affectionate.

Then the weirdest thing: I hear the east, the far east, not east America, but also: I hear almost a ska thing going, I hear the islands, come on dance and Thank You.

Then invited into this strange tent at this strange market, we shiver into an exotic fumbling before the band throws another cruel ballad or three our way, and as they are wrapped in the most beautiful melodies, we catch them easy, we are captured easier.

Layered and complex, yet never contrived this is a near perfect release.

http://www.boister.net

Catch tunes from this release on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/