Song of The Year-Blue Trash by The Dead South
The Dead South are Canadian Bluegrass. If you’ve ever listened to Bluegrass you know that the instrumentation is at the core of its success. Everything grows out of the rhythm and dexterity the banjo and the bass establish. The Dead South add gloriously to that tradition. Erik Mehlsen is basically the Lebon James of Cello. The lyrics that Nate Hilts sings on their new album ,Sugar & Joy, are stranger than Richard Nixon’s ghost. The groups fourth project is named after a lyric from the song Fat Little Killer Boy about a cannibal kid baking people into cakes. The group has been around since 2012 crafting this sound and Sugar & Joy marks the transition where they went to Muscle Shoals and did whatever felt good. They took what was already weird and spackled it with more weird.
Blue Trash comfortably navigates three different paces. I used the song to explain musical tempo to my six year old son. You can’t miss it. Trust me, if you read this blog I know your playlist doesn’t have a lot of banjo in it but lucky for all of us a little goes a long way. Just listen to Blue Trash a few times and see if your not singing along and looking for more songs. Sometimes it takes seven years to find the quintessential album that nails a bands mission statement but Sugar & Joy does. Let this music drive you like it does them and we’ll all stay alive together for a short while.
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Tagged banjo, Blue Trash, Bluegrass, CANADA!, Canadian Bluegrass, child cannibals, Folk, song of the year, Sugar & Joy, Sugar and Joy, tempo, The Dead South
#BandcampGold-New American Frontier by The Trusty Snakes
Alright, I don’t like the new Bruce Springsteen album Western Stars. We’re all supposed to. Bruce stepped back into his Country/Folk style this year in a very post-Sturgill Simpson way. The album is better than some of his recent work but the basic problem I have is that it works from the understandng that the old country music was precious and heartfelt. Sometimes it was, but it had more dimension than that. If you want stripped down Folk/Country Bruce find Nebraska because it gives a range of emotions. It’s not afraid to rage and churn and break down. In 2019, I’d rather listen to The Trusty Snakes than The Boss.
They are an Oregon Punk band called The Taxpayers who while on the road listened to a lot of old Country and found lots of common ground between the genres and became The Trusty Snakes. The same forceful propulsion that thrust their heavily political punk forward keeps the characters and scenes depicted in New American Frontier vivid. The lyrics equal the force of the music in boldness. The first song is only one minute and twenty four seconds but in that time we go from first meeting to marriage without wasting any time for a hook or chorus. It’s a sweet song that you’ll need to come back to once you jump into the harsh world of Ain’t Gonna Change. That song starts slow and sorrowful with a first few lines that will grab your attention, “Monday’s it’s beer. Tuesday’s it’s Whiskey. Wednesday’s it’s wine and cocaine, Thursday he wakes up and beats both his kids up. Every damn week it’s the same. Friday’s it’s jail and Diffy posts bail…”
I love that the album carries more than a bit of Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys in the way it seeks to understand the hearts of characters the authors don’t always respect. When Rob Taxpayer belts that some people ain’t gonna change you feel the tragedy in his voice. Next song a dude kills the dude his wife cheats with and beats her up in a diner all while the drums are jumping and popping. The only cover is Can I Sleep In Your Arms? from Willie Nelson’s legendary Red Headed Stranger. While Rob doesn’t have the soulful dimension in his voice that Willie had in 1975 (no shots!) none of us do. The vocal harmonies on this version give the chorus a cool campfire vibe, as if this is a song we all know and can sing together. They integrate trumpet along with guitar and drums to give this a feel all their own.
First time I put New American Frontier on in the car I didn’t know how my wife would take to it. It is folkpunk disjointed, fast then slow then fast, angry then sad then scary but her face lit up. She said “I love Cake and The Mountain Goats so this is my thing.” The tangled lyricism mixed with the high octane fun and sneaky orchestration had finally pushed me into her comfort zone. When I tried to put on Western Stars her face drooped. It was as if one of the greatest to ever make music was desperately searching for something but not finding it. While The Trusty Snakes got together and made up something great organically, accidentally, and thought it was so cool they just kept pushing into one of the years best albums.
Stream or download New American Frontier below: https://trustysnakes.bandcamp.com/album/new-american-frontier
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Tagged #BandcampGold, Bruce Springsteen, Country, Folk, Good Old Boys, Nebraska, New American Frontier, Oregon, Punk, Randy Newman, Red Headed Stranger, The Taxpayers, The Trusty Snakes, Western Stars, Willie Nelson
Song of The Year-Boys Will Be Boys by Stella Donnelly
The debut album by tiny lady Stella Donnelly from Perth Australia has dominated my listening for the last week plus. Album cover is definitely off putting and the subject matter is so tense in its exploration of patriarchal savagery (in both personal and political spheres) I feel her eyes as I listen. What I didn’t expect was the emotional durability and craft in the album.
Beware Of The Dogs could easily have been a precious thoughtful album with high review scores but too tough to listen to, instead, it mood matches marvelously. It jokes and laughs at the problems it presents grooving while taking them to task. The melodies are composed to be sweet and soft as your heart gets broken. Her voice is really special and has layers to it that she uses extraordinarily well for someone on their debut album.
Can I tell you what I love the most about Stella? The writing is the toughest most spellbinding in the world to me. In this song she sings in heartbroken tones “Your father told you you were innocent. Told you women rape themselves.” You cannot misunderstand her songs. Her lyrics are dedicated to clarity while remaining deeply important and thoughtful.
Boys Will Be Boys is a vital spotlight change in the consensual sex conversation. The spotlight always seems to be on the poor young man whose life and reputation are in jeopardy because he was accused of rape and this song helps push our vision to the women who were betrayed and dismissed. None of this album is preachy, none of it sits from a comfortable place expounding upon the right ways to live.
Beware Of The Dogs is dedicated to the real damage patriarchy causes. The damage we always seem to ignore. It is my favorite album of this year because the narrator walked me through it all with kindness and humor while NEVER pulling punches. Stella believed in my ears enough to give me the truth as brutal and complicated as it is. So few have the temerity.
Please check out all the songs available to listen to on bandcamp: