June’s First Sunday Six

Langhorne Slim

Langhorne Slim & The Law (Portland, OR but he’s still an East Coast kid) – Few artists in popular music today exceed the level of passion, honesty and raw emotion that runs through the songs of Langhorne Slim. The Way We Move, Slim’s new album set for release on Tuesday, follows, Be Set Free, an album that includes two of my favorite songs from the last decade. While the last record outlined Slim’s freedom from struggles with alcohol, this new one follows a breakup. However, both maintain a consistent theme of hope in the face of suffering.  MTV Hive, which is streaming the album in its entirety HERE, asked Slim about that. Here’s what he said…

That’s kind of my thing. There is a lot of awful and pain in the world, but the sun is also shining. That’ a theme that I’ve had for a long time in my music. Like they say, you gotta laugh to keep from crying.

“Salvation,” “On The Attack,” “Someday,” and “Past Lives” are songs that really resonated with me lyrically, especially given my divorce last year. Great storytelling and reflection here, and musically, it’s even better than the last. Also, The Way We Move was fan-funded with a bunch of personal touches…like you could get a beer with the band or Skype into a rehearsal for $50.

Doc Watson

Doc Watson (North Carolina) – After hearing about Doc Watson’s passing on Tuesday, my wise friend Gray said, “I’m starting to run out of heros.” Doc was a badass. Blind from the time he was a baby, he did things on the guitar that folks did know you could do on the guitar. When America was dominated by protest songs in the 60’s, Doc was playing old hymns and old-time ballads. The New York Times put together a great tribute to Doc, including this amazing old video of Doc and Earl Scruggs, who also recently passed away. Also, here’s one of my favorite renditions of Bob Dyan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” that Doc played with Sam Bush and others at Merlefest 2009.

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile (Seattle) – A few months back, I caught a Brandi Carlile show at New York’s Town Hall and was amazed that – song after song – so much soul could spew out of that one slender body. Carlile, who grew up in the tiny town of Ravensdale, Washington and rose to stardom following her 2007 album, The Story, produced by T-Bone Burnett, will release Bear Creek on Tuesday. The album features her talented band of longtime collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth (“The Twins”), Brooklyn’s own Allison Miller and my friend Josh Neumann, as well as Dave Palmer and Jeb Bows. Paste, which previewed Bear Creek‘s first single “That Wasn’t Me” earlier this week, notes that the album “summons goosebumps.” True story. It’s loaded with great writing and great variety – moving from poppy folk to Americana to singer-songwriter to old time country. “Keep Your Heart Young,” a fun little classic country track, is my favorite.

The Welcome Wagon – Photo by Denny Renshaw

The Welcome Wagon (Brooklyn) – Also out on Tuesday is the second album from my friends on The Welcome Wagon, the duo made up of Brooklyn Pastor Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique. Releasing on Asthmatic Kitty, the label partly owned by Sufjan Stevens, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (AmazonMP3) was produced by Alexander Foote and holds a distinctly different sound than the last album, which Sufjan produced (Sufjan does play the banjo and sings in the choir on this album, but there are less Sufjan-style choruses). Like the band’s previous work, the album is filled with deeply honest, blunt and celebratory songs of Auito’s faith. There are a number of indie-rockish tracks, but most are Americana or folk. Most notable are the first single, “Would You Come See Me in New York” (see a great video of it here), “Draw Nigh,” with Sufjan on banjo, and “Rice and Beans” with some nice pedal steel. Many of the songs were written by Vito, but the album also includes gorgeous renditions of old hymns “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” and “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Ascending.” The band rarely tours, but NYC can catch their CD release show at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn on Tuesday with Andrew Rose and The Color Red Band.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (Los Angeles) – Who would have thought that the second album from hazy-crazy-travel-by-school-bus band from LA would take a rootsy turn? Well it did. As Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros frontman Alex Ebert noted in a fascinating interview with Nashville Scene, the band will release a “more rambunctious” album later this year, which was already recorded. Overflowing with spiritualistic (Eastern-style) lyrics and a great Americana sound, Here (AmazonMP3 & Spotify) is my favorite of the two albums from the band to date. “That’s What’s Up” and “Fiya Wata” are a crapton of fun to listen to and dance to. “I Don’t Wanna Pray” (musically at least) sounds like something that was pulled out of some early 19th century mountain music archive. It’s awesome.

Jim Hanft – Photo by Sam Molleur

Jim Hanft (Los Angeles) – This past week I caught LA-based singer-songwriter Jim Hanft with exceptional accompanying singer Samantha Yonack at The Living Room on the Lower East Side. Hanft’s poppy folk is mixed with great storytelling. His new album, Weddings or Funerals (AmazonMP3 & Spotify), is slightly outside of the stuff we typically write about here, but I love the album’s second track, “Run My Love.”