Review | Joe Fletcher – You’ve Got the Wrong Man

Joe Fletcher

This is simple; this is stripped-down; this is a genre of country music I would call “regret adventures.” This is Joe Fletcher’s latest album, You’ve Got the Wrong Man.

One thing should be instantly clear: invoking the ghost of Hank Williams can only ever be a good sign. Fletcher does so in the very second song off the album, “Haint Blue Cadillac,” and the song doesn’t take Hank’s name in vain. As a country singer, if your goal is to write songs Hank Williams would approve of, you can’t really go wrong.

“Miss Red” shows us exactly how to do a breakup song – cursing for days? Exactly! Never mind curling up in a sad ball and feeling feelings. That’s boring. Get mad at your foolishness in losing the person you liked and swear a lot. Also, if you happen to open any letters from said ex, close them immediately and instead open a beer. Advice for living.

I think “Heart in a Mousetrap” hits some kind of country jackpot. In the very first line, we’ve got the words “big city,” “wildfire,” and “coal mine.” This song is the sound of the little country-song slot machine hitting all 7s.

But there’s something else really interesting on this album. Beyond it being great under the power of its own spareness, a couple of songs sounded very Dan Bern to me. And that might mean he sounds country to some people, but part of it is the tone, the phrasing, and the subject matter. “Life of the Party” could be a Dan Bern song, and if you told me that “Oceanside Motel” was Fletcher’s country variation on Bern’s “Chelsea Hotel,” I would believe you. I’m not saying it’s derivative! Just that one thing I enjoy reminded me of another. And that if you give You’ve Got the Wrong Man a listen and like it, you may also enjoy looking into Dan Bern.

I don’t know what my favorite song is on the album, but a contender has to be “The Wilsons,” because look at the opening line: “We don’t know why the house exploded…” and it just gets better from there. I’ve decided that from now on, everyone has to start songs by alluding to, and then not explaining at all, mysterious house explosions. Consider your favorite song. Wouldn’t it be better with an exploding house at the beginning? I THOUGHT SO.

Buy You’ve Got the Wrong Man

New Music | JD McPherson – Bossy

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A new tune from favorite, JD McPherson, would definitely perk my ears up a bit, and when I hit play, out shoots a driving, pounding, breathy blues roots track that I totally fell in love with. It’s got a raw, pure feeling to it, like it came out of his guitar on it’s own. It may be more of McPherson’s interpretation of blues-roots, but it feels more authentically his versus a retro-style. Either way, I’m in love, and it’s only whetting my appetite for more.

Look for McPherson’s new record, Let the Good Times Roll, out in February on Rounder Records.

Video | Belle & Sebastian – The Party Line

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Belle & Sebastian’s new tune got video treatment, and “The Party Line,” indeed sounds just that, a 4 minute party. It digs its way deep into your ears and will have you reaching for more. It’s a great funky, soulful indie-pop kind of sound that isn’t too far of a stretch for Belle & Sebastian at all. Look for “The Party Line,” to land on B&S’ new record, Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance will be released on January 20th, 2015 via Matador.

Photos | Smith&Weeden + JP Harris and The Tough Choices @ Nick-A-Nees

Smith&Weeden at Nick-A-Nees
Photos by Boston Concert Photography

Time ticks away pretty quickly in the Northeast at this time of year. Days are short and weeks fly by like minutes. One good thing about that — 10PM Friday night at Nick-A-Nees in Providence rolls before you know it.

This past Friday, two bands fit for filling spaces four-times the size — at least — joined together to pack the local watering hole wall-to-wall.

J.P. Harris and The Tough Choices finally brought their new album “Home Is Where the Hurt Is” to the chilly New England region and it was just what the crowd needed to beat back the winds outside. Behind J.P.’s lead, the band let loose with the kind of country music that makes people admit that they love country music. Come on… you can do it. Great riffs, clever lyrics and a band that can’t be thrown. So great to hear the album (and more) come to life.

Closing out the evening were local rock-n-roll heroes Smith&Weeden. There aren’t many people who can sit still while these guys belt out songs from their self-titled debut album. Or while they kick over a cover of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” With talent streaming out of every piece of this band, they’re really one you should try to catch before you’re paying an arm and a leg to do so.

And while you’re thinking of what a funny name Nick-A-Knees is, you might want to keep an eye on their schedule for free shows from the likes of Bobby Bare Jr.

Review | Sloan @ Great Scott

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Sloan came to Great Scott last night! They are a Canadian band harking back to the days of my youth (this is their 23rd year as a band), which means this isn’t my first time seeing them… only my first time since 2000. “Bells On” has been one of my go-to dish washing songs for years (oh, like you don’t sing while you wash the dishes). Don Cherry might describe them as “ya know they’re just a buncha good Nova Scotia boys! Let’s go!” I mean technically only one of them is actually FROM Nova Scotia, and I guess they’re based out of Toronto these days, but when has Don Cherry gotten hung up on a technicality?

The coolest thing about Sloan isn’t their sweet power-pop harmonies, or the way that Jay Ferguson has had essentially the same haircut for at least 20 years and is somehow still pulling it off. No, the coolest thing is that they are the most egalitarian of bands – each member writes and sings some of the songs, and they swap instruments as need be, to the point it can look like musical chairs up on stage. I love that. It proves that they are all so talented that they can jump into another role in the band, plus it’s fun to watch. And on top of that, you get to know what each guy’s songs sound like.

That’s actually the point of their new double album, Commonwealth. It’s a double album and each band member has a side to himself. You don’t even realize how badly you need this album. Here, here, listen to “13 (Under a Bad Sign)” – see? And this is also how they structured the show. They played a set that was broken into 4 parts, so each band member got a turn for a few of his songs in a row, largely off the new record. And then they took a little break and came back and played A WHOLE SECOND SET, plus an encore, of other, older material. I was flipping out. So was the entire, packed room. I thought at first that finally, finally, the Supersuckers Patent Pending Fake Encore was catching on with other bands, until I realized that what I thought was an encore was an entire new set. Ahh!!

One thing that happens when you see a band you haven’t seen in a long time is that you hear one of their old songs that you knew back in the day, and realize all over again what an incredible song it is. At this show, that song was “The Other Man,” off 2001’s Pretty Together, a paean to the predicament of, well, the other man. We don’t even have a word for him, people. What is the masculine form of a mistress? Someone invent one, post haste.

And yes, Great Scott was extremely packed. It’s maybe a small venue for this band, but, as I overheard Chris Murphy saying outside before the show (not that I was eavesdropping or anything), and I quote, “We don’t mind playing small bars when everyone gives a shit.” And we really, really did. A shit was truly and wholeheartedly given. It is pretty awesome to see a band you’ve loved for ages in the kind of place where, if you were able to move from your spot, you could bring them stage babies (stage babies, pl. n.: beers you bring a band while they are playing, for on-stage consumption). I could have bought stage babies for Sloan, you guys.

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Review | Long Time & Caroline Rose @ Great Scott

Thomas John Cadrin
Photos by Matt LeBel and me. Any halfway adequate-looking ones of Long Time are his.

Tuesday night, Allston’s sweatered and plaid faithful flocked to Great Scott – no shade, I have lived in Allston, and in the wintertime I am reliably either sweatered or plaid – to see jazzy Boston folkster Thomas John Cadrin take a big huge leap. This was his first show with a full band, and as such, a new name.  The band is named Long Time, and if you don’t instantly see the potential there to yell out “We love you, Long Time!”, please report to me immediately for Remedial Smart Remarks class.

The new name isn’t the only change. He played both new and older material, and every time he said “this is a new one,” things got louder and more rock-and-rollular, which was totally ace. Don’t misconstrue – I am not casting aspersions on the more folky end of the spectrum. Dear reader, I come from the land of Birkenstocks and hugs; I worked at a huge folk festival every summer for years; I am on record as Officially Digging It. But bringing some more rock to the table really works for Long Time. Those songs were my favorites of the bunch. The older material is more what I would think of as “warm bath music” in that it sounds about right to listen to while soaking in a warm bath. It’s calming. You can consider for yourself – this is their song “Victory March” from a past show at the Middle East.

I’m looking forward to seeing more from Long Time – I want to see the direction they take this new band. Will the ability to be bigger and louder with the full band govern the sound? No doubt they don’t want to lose the sound Cadrin started with, either. So we shall see! They’re playing Great Scott again on Dec. 18th, and then hightailing it down to New York to record at Converse Rubber Tracks. Big things, no doubt, are happening.

They were opening up for Caroline Rose, who, in her words, isn’t so much from New Hampshire like the rest of her band, but parks her car there sometimes. And yeah, the way she pronounced “park my car” – “perk my kerr” – is sure enough a sign she’s telling the truth there.

What she brought was raucous foot-stompers that, maybe if you weren’t paying much attention, just sounded like a party good time. But these songs channel rage and frustration with the status quo – her current single, “Blood on Your Bootheels,” addresses Trayvon Martin’s murder. Do not mistake it for the wholesome old-time country music it sounds like: this is punk by definition. She is a barn-burner and I am 100% on board. Not least because, as I mentioned last night, I have to give it up for another girl who chooses to rock the tube socks as performance-wear, and they’re even red-and-white. They don’t say “BACON” on them, but you can’t win ‘em all. I’m pretty sure this means we are best friends.

Long Time Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Caroline Rose Facebook / Twitter  / website

Review | Queen Chief – Self-Titled EP

Queen Chief

All right, okay, it isn’t Halloween anymore, and I’m not trying to spook you anymore. So instead of horror and dread, how about a loud, heavy response to grim life? Good! Then Queen Chief is right up your alley.

The band is based in Portland, OR, but singer and guitarist Justin Lien infuses every song with the sound of growing up between places: the reservations and dead-end suburbs that are the flipside of the shiny hipster Northwest. Faced with bleak surroundings, he opted not to be sucked into despair, but instead to rage back at it. This album is that much juicier when you consider it as not just a description, but an argument.

Enough philosophizing! Let’s get into the meat of the thing. This self-titled EP opens with “North Dakota Spirit,” a song that might make you wonder if you maybe accidentally grabbed the wrong band with “Queen” in their name and pulled out a Queens of the Stone Age cd instead. Um, pretend other people than me still listen to cds, for the sake of argument. Shut up. Anyway, this song kicks ass. And how about the line “Dance with the sun and talk shit about the moon”? Seriously, who does that moon think she is, anyway. Oh, look at me, I’m the moon, I control the tides! Like she’s so cool.

The stoner rock sound continues throughout the record, with a brief quieter interlude with “Stands and Looks Back,” which sounds like the soundtrack to the part of the movie where Our Hero is prowling through an empty power plant, knowing the Bad Guy is hiding in there somewhere… which then bleeds into “Sleeping Under Trees” and suddenly we’re alone in the entire world as tumbleweeds roll down the middle of abandoned suburban streets. Do you ever listen to a song and think of a book? This makes me think about certain parts of Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend in a Coma (which, if you haven’t read it, please do so – see your friendly local Vancouverite [me] for assistance).

In short, I dig this a lot. I don’t know if Queen Chief plans to play any shows outside of their immediate local area, but if they come around this way sometime, I’ll be there.

Buy Queen Chief EP

Video | Greyhounds – Lone Rider

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Austin duo Greyhounds have released the video for the latest single,”Lone Rider,” off their fantastic debut album Accumulator, which came earlier this year on Memphis label Ardent Music. Guitarist Andrew Trube and keyboardist Anthony Farrell have been touring the country back n’ forth and back again this year, spreading the soulful bluesy word that the two Texans have skillfully crafted together the past 15 years or so.

The boys are currently on tour with The Tedeschi Trucks Band and you can check out show information here.

Facebook / Twitter / Greyhounds page

Buy Accumulator

Happy Halloween | Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hell

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This year’s Halloween video is both a trick and a treat! The treat coming in the form of the catchiest tune the spectacular North Carolina band Squirrel Nut Zippers released this side of the graveyard. The trick being that you will not be able to get the song out of your head all day. Seriously, those horns, that rhumba-beat, and the D and the A and the M/And the N and the A/ And the T and the I-O-N, will be knocking around that skull of yours while the costumed ghouls and goblins make short work of your bowl of candy.

 

New Album | Those Poor Bastards – Vicious Losers

Lonesome Wyatt of Those Poor Bastards

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It continues to be almost Halloween. Everyone seems in altogether too high of spirits for the time at hand, so I’m here to help you out with that. Friends – fiends – take a listen to Those Poor Bastards’ new album, Vicious Losers, and turn that smile upside down.

If you aren’t familiar with Those Poor Bastards, they make music that makes your horse go crazy, the music you hear on loop when you’re chained to a pipe in a basement, and Vicious Losers does not break from that tradition. Some people might want to tell you they hail from Wisconsin; in reality, they hail from the place your nightmares are set.

Lonesome Wyatt’s vocals can fool you into thinking there are several people singing in this band. Within the same song, even the same verse, he’ll run the gamut between creepy rasp and the pulpit yowls of a brimstone preacher. You’ll get an idea of this in the very first track off the album, “I Am Lost.”

Like a recurring nightmare, certain themes come up again and again on everything Those Poor Bastards do – fevered religious imagery (“Born to Rot”), loathing for the modern world in all of its materialism (“Big Trees”), and half-told stories that let your imagination fill in the lurid details (“Strange Dark Night”). Here now, hearken to “The Only Time,” above, and feel the pull between staying alive and living out that miserable life.

If crippling dread and portents of doom are your idea of a good time, you may purchase Vicious Losers straight from Tribulation Records here (and the rest of their back catalog, which I highly recommend for scaring trick-or-treaters away from your house). Marinate in it, sinners.