Drag It Up, Old 97’s. Solid Old 97’s. I thought they had broken up and that I’d never see another album so I was happy to get this one. My favorite line on the whole album is from Bloomington, which is, “The existence of God was confirmed / by the way she unfolded herself alongside / and I tried to harden up my heart / but she wouldn’t let me.”
OCMS, Old Crow Medecine Show. The surprise hit of this particular Amazon order. I had heard Wagonwheel on Prairie Home Companion and thought it was great so I ordered the album. It was better than expected. It’s essentially bluegrass but just calling it bluegrass doesn’t do it justice. Many (most?) of the songs on the album are traditional songs that they’ve re-arranged and even added their own lyrics to. Wagonwheel, a Bob Dylan tune they’ve augmented, gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. I recently went to Amazon with the intention of buying everything else they’ve ever done but couldn’t find anything other than OCMS.
Revolution Starts Now, Steve Earle. If it is possible, this album is even more political than Jerusalem. Home To Houston is a cool song about a contractor driving trucks in Iraq. Rich Man’s War is about how countries tend to send their poor to fight. Warrior is a poem (about war) spoken over crunchy guitar riffs. Condi, Condi is a calypso love song to a certain cabinet member. And F The CC is aimed at not only the FCC but the CIA and FBI. So it’s not hard to tell what’s been on Steve’s mind of late. I like the album but I don’t think it’s my favorite Steve Earle.
Wish Bones, Slaid Cleaves. My buddy, Dave, to whom I can never offer a music recommendation for which he isn’t already on top of has been trying to get me to listen to Slaid and go to his shows for a long time. So I broke down and threw it in the cart. I’m glad I did. He’s got a good voice and is a good storyteller. Instrumentally, there’s nothing unique or noteworthy (that I’ve picked up on) but I still like it. His best known single, Broke Down, is from a previous album. I’ve actually never heard him sing it but Meredith Louise Miller covered it at a private benefit concert a few weeks ago and I really liked it. It made me want to get Slaid’s version.
Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo, Various Artists. I like my Alejandro CD’s but they aren’t albums I can just leave in the player and listen to all of the time. There’s no doubt he’s a great writer but the music itself doesn’t grip me for some reason. This tribute album was put together to help him with medical costs as he undergoes treatment of Hepatitis C. I figured if I liked his writing maybe it’d be cool to have a bunch of covers by some of my favorite artists. And the line up is stellar. Some of my favorites are on here: Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Jayhawks, and Son Volt–they got back together to cut this track and then decided to do another album. This was a good way to hear other artists, get exposure to older Alejandro material I’ve never heard, and help a good cause.
New Roman Times, Camper Van Beethoven. Prior to this album, the only thing I really knew about Camper Van was their big hit Matchstick Men from the 80’s/90’s and that members of the band started Cracker. When I saw they came out with their first album in twenty years I decided to give it a shot. At first I was a little worried. The opening sounds like one of those big 20 piece rock bands like Yes or something. Then, I checked out the liner notes and noticed that the album tells a story–the notes help you figure out what’s supposed to be happening with each song in case you can’t figure it out for yourself. Being a new Camper Van listener I have nothing to compare it to. Other than the instrumentals, which I’m just not a fan of in general, I like the album. The story gives it an interesting twist that makes you want to listen to and appreciate the album as a unit rather than pick apart each song which is a tendency I worry about in the age of 50 cent/track song downloads.