Category Archives: Folk

Album Review: Tim Barry – High On 95

There is really not much more I can say about Tim Barry these days except that the man is exceptional.

The former Avail frontman has made aging as a punk rocker just so appealing.  Taking each day in stride and being the best father he can be, you might just find inspiration in him just as I have.

His solo material is more of a storytelling process with the soul purpose of letting people hear him out.  Still containing his punk rock roots as well as life-long experiences, Barry just dropped an all new release on Chunksaah Records titled High On 95.

High On 95 is a mixture of acoustic tracks and collective jams with Barry’s family and friends.  Just as he has always done in the past, Barry has no problem combining folk, rock, and punk and  with his own personal touch making for an incredible listen.

The album was recorded once again by Lance Koehler at Minimum Wage Studios in Richmond Virginia.  According to Barry, “it’s just one take” and continued with, “Lance knows the more I do it, the worse it’s gonna get. You lose something when you play it more and more. So get it right.”

One take is all it took to make one hell of an album.

The personal “Slow Down” had Barry and his guitar recollecting life in a busy city and his transition to a small town.  The backing violin playing was so fitting on this track that seemingly aged from the beginning to the end.

The detail in the lyrics on “High On 95” almost seemed like personal memories of my own.  This track was built up with some guitar playing and simple piano playing.  What made this track even better for me was the video that his 4-1/2 year old daughter filmed all on a VHS camcorder.  Life goal right there folks, especially since I have my own little versions of me these days.  Check out the video below.

“O & Dp” was more of a song a close knit of friends would sign around a campfire.  I especially related to this track with lyrics that were personable with life events and self-expectation.

“Riverbank” was a memorable jam that might be one of the more produced songs I have heard by Barry in a while and I loved every second of it.  Friendly and real thoughts put into song while letting dogs run around the river just doesn’t get much more sincere.

The toe-tapping “Gumshoe Andy” brought back train-hopping memories of Barry.  You almost wonder who this gumshoe was and what his intentions were or if it was just an inner-conscious voice taming someone’s wild tendencies.

The observations in “Porter St.” are all to familiar.  This industrialization realization of a small town track has immediately become one of my favorite Barry tracks.  Just listening to it had me thinking and agreeing with what day to day life has turned into.

“Chelsea” was almost a Dear John letter of a track with Barry showing pleasantries followed by dismissal for being deceitful.  Friendly-sounding but stern, this tune was quick to take out the trash.

It was great to hear Barry’s sister Caitlin play violin on “Running Never Tamed Me” along with Barry. Christina Marie Gleixner provided haunting backing vocals on this track about the highs and lows of life and love as told to what I would only assume was Barry’s daughters.  This was one bummer of a track, but beautiful.

At 30 minutes total, High On 95 was an amazing listen that seemed to just fly by.  I have actually listened to it a few times now and some of the tracks became even more poignant once the lyrics were absorbed in my mind.  It’s the kind of album you think with, relate to, and just absorb.

People, including myself, have asked Barry for years if he would ever reunite Avail.  He always responds that he is not interested in doing that.  For a while there, I could not understand, but as the years have progressed with the releases by Barry, I am glad he didn’t.  This man has his priorities set to align with his future on his own accord.  Godspeed sir.

Tour Dates:
9/23 Richmond, Virginia @ Carpenter Theatre
10/05 Washington, DC @ DC9 Nightclub
10/06 Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo
10/07 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
10/8 Detroit, MI @ Smalls
10/10 Columbus, OH @ Rumba Cafe
10/11 St Louis, Mo @ Blueberry Hill
10/12 Chicago, Il @ Cobra Lounge
10/13 Indianapolis @ White Rabbit
10/14 Louisville, KY @ Haymarket
10/26 Ybor City, FL @ Pre-FEST
10/27 Gainesville, FL @ FEST
11/09 Garwood, NJ @ Crossroads
11/10 Philadelphia @ Underground Arts
11/11 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs.
11/12 Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
12/07 San Diego, CA @ Casbah
12/08 Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
12/09 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
12/10 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill.

Album Review: Ethan Daniel Davidson – Crows

I’ll openly admit that I had never heard of Ethan Daniel Davidson until Pete at Blue Arrow Records asked me to check out his latest release Crows.

I am so stoked he did.

All I was told about Davidson was that he was from Detroit and played folk music.  Furthermore, I had no idea that this Americana folk album bordered outlaw country.

Crows is Davidson’s latest full-length and has been released on Blue Arrow Records.  He has been playing music for years now and has released quite a few indie/folk albums previous to Crows.  I learned that he is married to Gretchen from Slumber Party and once moved out to Alaska to record.  He toured for years until he had a family and is known for offering up his music (downloads) for free.  He’s also the adopted son of the late Pistons owner, Bill Davidson.

Just by looking at the album cover of Crows, I instantly thought of Billy The Kid as the photo of Davidson looked rustic and almost criminal.  I was instantly intrigued before even hearing one song.

“My Crows” opened up the album with an almost warped sound to it.  Davidson’s singing was welcoming and just caught my attention.  Having expecting more of a folk style, I really dug this country style.  The collective singing midway about love just made it that much more inviting.

“My Own Bad” was one track I really enjoyed.  This song was more of a cowboy memoir full of twang that was fueled by evil tendencies.  This is a track I wish I could have listened to when I lived out in the desert, it would have complimented my evenings so well.

“And The Never Saw Him Coming” was more of a 40s country telltale tune that I easily got sucked into.  I adored the banjo with the slow drumming that carried me along for the ride.  Davidson slowly sung about a mysterious natural born killer ending right at the climax leaving for plenty of interpretation.

“I Might’ve Been Wrong” was an eerie gospel-like track about a punished man with a conscience.  Davidson did not hold back with his descriptive lyricism on this track.

“Close To The Gallows” kept on the with the demeanor and easily could be put in a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack – seriously, this track ruled.

“Love can go to hell” started off the twangy, tender song “Fade”.  This little jam was not necessarily a romantic story, but more of a strung out, timely appreciation.

As someone who has an appreciation for real country music and not that pop crap, I loved every moment of Crows.  It was a complete shocker of an album to hear and as I previously mentioned, I’m thrilled Pete told me to check it out.  This is going to be one of those albums I play for the rest of my life.  With that said, I think I should probably check out Davidson’s catalog, something tells me I am going to enjoy it as well.

This album is perfect if you like alt-country but are looking for something a little slower and more on the dark side.  Check it out for yourself:

Album Review: Everymen – May Your Ashes Have Stories To Tell

I could be quick to say Lake Worth, Florida’s Everymen is just a folk punk band and move on with life, but that would be incredibly lazy on my part.

This band may carry some of the punk and  folk qualities attributed to that genre, but they are so much more than that.

I cannot say I’d heard of this band before, but they just dropped a new release on Say-10 Records called May Your Ashes Have Stores To Tell, and I found myself really digging what they had to offer.

Everymen is like what a young Against Me! might have sounded like if a hyped Tim Barry took over some of the singing duties while the dudes from Gogol Bordello jumped onboard.  I could not help but also think of Tin Horn Prayer when listening to this album as well as Old Man Markley and even Larry and His Flask.

The more I listened to this album though, the more I kept thinking that lead singer of Everymen sounded like the lead singer of one of my favorite unheard of 90s bands, Stompbox.  Once I made that observation, I could not get it out of my head.

Sure that is a lot of comparisons to be throwing out there, but the band stands out with their own style and energy which made it much more interesting to get into.

The moment “Shake Your Bones” started off the album, I knew I was in for something good.  This toe-tapping jam really caught me off guard, especially with the horns and crazy guitar playing.

“Dead Friends”, an ode to lost pals, kept an upbeat feel while paying tribute to those who were taken too soon.  Sadly this was not the only track on the album to sing about loved ones who were no longer as “M.B.” paid tribute to Erik Petersen, the lead singer of Mischief Brew and great friend to the band, who took his own life.

“How To Live” was more of a basement sing along track over the rest.   Listening to this song brought back lots of memories of me being smashed in tiny, dark basements screaming lyrics at the top of my lungs along with some of my favorite bands.

The sing along opportunities continued with he fun “Don’t Rain On My Parade”, a track that easily could have fueled an all night rager in a small, remote bar.  Ironically, “Waking Up Hurts” seemed to be the morning after song compared to the previous jam.

“Don’t Stay” was dark as hell with a certain gypsy-polka sound that was all too inviting.  I loved the female vocals tossed into this track as well as the fiddle playing.

It’s nice to hear such a unique album that does not necessarily rip off anyone else’s sound.  I can only imagine what this band sounds like live.  I am sure it is a hell of a drunken good ol time.

If you are looking for something a little different from the norm, check out what Everymen has to offer.  This is one of those bands I am glad someone reached out to me asking to check out because now I can tell you to do the same.  Totally worth it.

EP Review: Garrett Dale – Two T’s EP

Forget the filler in this review.  Garrett Dale is the lead singer of Red City Radio and just released three songs as a solo project.

You’d never know that Dale even fronted a punk rock band if you listened to any of these tracks.

Three songs of brutal honesty have been slammed into folkish alt-country music on Two T’s EP and I will tell ya, it’s fantastic.  This gem of an EP was released by the good folk at Red Scare.

“2016 Was…Horseshit” is like Tom Waits meets Slobberbone.  What more can I say about this track other than it is blunt as hell.  Check the video below and add the song to your next porch drinking mix already.

Then there was “House Full Of Dogs”, a track that clearly was fueled by a drunken recollection of personal exchanges.  The saxophone in the middle of the song made it that much more incredible.  This track is like the bastard child of a miserable Brendan Kelly and Bruce Springsteen fling.

“Down The Rabbit Hole” was the last track on this EP.  For someone like myself who is obsessed with Lucero and John Moreland, this song just fit in perfectly.  Not that I ever did not respect Dale, but this song alone has me looking at him and his talent forever differently.

Given this small taste of tunes, I really hope Dale has more of this up his sleeves because I seriously think people are going be just as floored as I was when they hear it.  This is music not to sit on.

Book Review: Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost – Erin Osmon

For those who know the name Jason Molina, there is a certain unspoken agreement that his talents were plucked from his adoring fans far too soon.

As many know, he was a musical genius who succumbed to an addiction he could never overcome and in turn put down his guitar and great talent in order to hold on to a bottle.

I call myself a fan, but a Molina novice at best.  I openly admit that I am one of those late fans who never got to see him play live and grew to appreciate his entire catalog after his passing.  I can not say I have ever quite heard music like what Molina created.

I didn’t know the whole story of a man who got his start less than an hour from where I live.  I knew he was with Secretly Canadian and knew how he passed, but I knew nothing in between.

It only seems fitting to have someone collect all the memories, both good and bad, and put them into a book for all inquiring minds like mine.  This biography, to be released by Rowman & Littlefield on May 15th, was full of memories and folklore about a mysterious individual who took his music far past any boundaries ever set prior and in doing so did it his way.

Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost, written by Erin Osmon, pretty much answered questions about Molnia’s life that some of me never wanted to know.  From tales of his youth in a trailer park Lorain, OH to memories in recording studios and overseas, this family-authorized book really covered it all.

Family, friends, bandmates, and even tourmates all provided insight to the life of Molina.  Where most of the book spoke on Molina’s journeys from Songs: Ohia to Magnolia Electric Company and even his solo work and impromptu sessions, the book also brought to light family tensions, failed relationships, depression, and of course the demise of greatness.

Molina’s college days and the years shortly after were probably my favorite recollections to read.  Obviously, the toughest parts to read were about his separation from his wife and an attempt at recovery through bandmates and the very label he helped get their start.

It was interesting to learn how Molina formulated his albums in homes and studios alone and with others.  I was also fascinated learning about his life outside of the music including living conditions and places of employment.

Reading how Molina got material released by Secretly Canadian seemed like something that would have happened in a comedy movie, but it was all true.  He was the stepping stone of a label that may not have gotten their start had they never connected.

Molina’s humor style as told by others made me laugh more than once.  His approach with his bands though seemed rather repressed at times, especially when he would up and leave without communicating properly to those involved.

The book obviously was not all fun and games.  Reading about uncomfortable obsessions and how they were put to song made me realize the inventiveness Molina’s mysterious mind carried.  The self-sabotaging of a musical career as told in detail, really opened my eyes and held my interest to the point I couldn’t put down the book.  The marriage that never ended in divorce was painful to absorb but the love that remained was inspiring.

The last few chapters were very difficult for me to read as I lost an uncle to alcoholism earlier this year.  The stories of the support Molina received by loved ones and all of the chances given to him that were eventually passed upon just reminded me of what addiction can do to someone.  Reading about the deterioration of a proud man who kept too many secrets just hit too close to home for me.

Overall, the book carried a life-spanning account of a musician from his young days on Lake Erie to his final days secluded in a room slowly drowning his life away.  The emotions were really felt through this book from those who were stunned at his approach to making music to finding out their friend was no more.

My only small distress with this book is at times it seemed the author had a synonym book handy that was used frequently.  Perhaps it was I, the reader, who needs to dip deeper in to a more prolific writing style, but in the first chapter alone, Molina’s father was referenced as a “patriarch” and the term “spinning platters” was used over playing records.

Eventually I was able to get in tune with Osmon’s style, but there were times I just felt some of the vocabulary used was just too much and interfered with the story-telling.  One thing Osmon did well was put all of the memories and stories together in a chronological order making it easy to set down the book and pick it up again without losing your spot.

The copy that I read was not the final copy but one provided to me early on my the publisher, so there is a chance things will be changed.  I will tell you this, the chapters at times were long, but they were read through quickly as the memories were so well put together.

Fans of Molina will appreciate this book due to all of the content Osmon was able to hunt down over the span of three years.  There were so many angles of Molina’s life put down in this book and I am sure it was not easy for Osmon to capture it all, yet she did it well.

As an added bonus to die-hard Molina fans, Secretly Canadian is releasing a limited-edition bundle of the book with a LP pressing of a 1994 Jason Molina WOBC radio session at Oberlin College.  Where I failed to pre-order my copy in time before it sold out, I did get to listen to the performance and I can tell you it is beautiful and will haunt you, but not in a scary way.  Molina even back in 1994 was so laid back and happy to be sharing his songs with others.  Personally speaking, I think had I heard that session live back then on the radio, I would have been a changed man.

Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost is available for pre-order through Rowman & Littlefield, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and other fine retailers.