If there’s one Americana band who’s creative output fits the aesthetic of listening to music on vinyl, then surely it’s The Handsome Family? Rennie & Brett Sparks and their collaborators have being releasing quality albums steadily since 1984’s debut Odessa, the latest Unseen is their tenth studio album and another must have for connoisseurs of a sub-genres that one could file under Western Gothic or Country Noir, truth is of course these labels only sign-post the potential listener to what’s in store for them should they wish to delve deeper into the “intriguing surrealist lyricism which, explores the unseen stories, people and places of the American west”.
Following a familiar creative path Rennie provides the lyrics (plays banjo and autoharp), Brett the music, instrumentation and recording at the Sparks home studio, – with assistance by collaborators David Gutierrez (mandolin & dobro), Alex MacMahon (guitar,baritone guitar & pedal steel) and Jason Toth (drums).
I’m sure there are those who’ll contest my opening statement but in order to do so you’re going to have to get hold Unseen on vinyl and try it out for yourself – the good folks at Loose will sort you out.
Perhaps currently best known for being Damien Jurado’s lead guitarist, Courtney Marie Andrews has been on the road since she was 16 years old, when she left home in Arizona for her first tour. She travelled up and down the West Coast, busking and playing any bars or cafés that would have her. Soon after she took a Greyhound bus four nights straight from Phoenix to New York to do the same on the East Coast. For a decade or so since, Courtney’s been a session and backup singer and guitarist for nearly 40 artists but has never stopped writing her own material. Picking up admirers like Damien Jurado and Ryan Adams along the way, she has quietly earned a reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter.
Courtney explains how the lyrics of “How Quickly Your Heart Mends” are based upon a lady she met whilst working at a small town bar: “During my bartending shifts I had met this woman many times. She is beautiful, but still somehow she searches for love that is a faded red, white and blue. In some ways she is strong for enduring so much heartbreak. In other ways she is naive for believing that love can save her and that it’s hers to own. I’ve always been drawn to the flaws in my characters because that is what makes them more relatable and more human.”
As the song goes “The jukebox is playin’ a sad country song / For all the ugly Americans / Now I feel like one of them / Dancin’ alone and broken by the freedom”. It’s really no wonder Ryan Adams called Courtney Marie Andrews “a phenomenal songwriter”.
“How Quickly Your Heart Mends” is released 26th August 2016 and is taken from Courtney Marie Andrew’s forthcoming album “Honest Life”, out 20th January on Loose and available to pre-order now on 180g turquoise vinyl, CD & download.
Israel Nash and his band return from the Texas Hill Country with the new album Israel Nash’s Silver Season to be released October 9th, 2015 via Loose/Thirty Tigers, this is the first teaser track from the album.
Following his critically acclaimed 2013 album Rain Plans, Israel Nash’s Silver Season was written and recorded on Nash’s 15-acre ranch in Dripping Springs, near Austin TX, where he and his band built Plum Creek Sound, a 1,400 square-foot Quenset studio. Recorded to tape with Grammy-award winning engineer Ted Young (Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth, The Rolling Stones) back behind the boards, Israel Nash makes a bold return with Israel Nash’s Silver Season.
Influenced by the peaceful Texas hillside, the 9-song album ventures farther down the acid-soaked trail blazed by Rain Plans, arriving in lush and expansive territory. Here, Nash sounds more assured than ever, supported by his highly capable band and production inspired by psychedelic greats.
In support of the new record, Nash and his band are heading out on the road to play multiple US festivals this summer and headline dates in the autumn. News of UK and European dates to follow soon.
Frankie Lee will release his debut single ‘Where Do We Belong’ through Loose on 4th September.
Available on limited edition 7” vinyl and featuring the AA-side ‘Buffalo’, the single was recorded at Real Phonic Studios in Minneapolis, MN.
Born on the banks of the Mississippi river, Lee’s family later moved to Minneapolis. Following the death of his father in a motorcycle accident when he was 12, Frankie immersed himself in the city’s music scene, appearing onstage with local heroes Slim Dunlap (The Replacements) and Curtiss A at the impressionable age of 14. After inheriting records and instruments from his father’s collection, Lee was – as he sees it – “taught to play guitar by a ghost”. He continues, “I was raised on stage. These guys would bring me into the clubs, sit me behind the soundboard and give me all the coca cola I could drink until they’d call me up for a song or two at the end of the night.”
At the age of 20 Lee dropped out of college, re-invested his soccer scholarship fund in a Volvo station wagon, Lee drove down to Nashville where he met Merle Haggard on his first day in town. Lee then moved on to Austin, TX where he spent 6 years working for Townes Van Zandt’s son JT building cabinets outside of town in Buda, TX. The two became good friends and Lee played his first show at a night hosted by JT. “Austin was a Mecca for me, The scene at the time was bursting wide open with everything from Western swing bands to Roky Erikson’s psychedelic garage rock. I was out almost every night for 6 years. There was never an excuse to stay in.”
Soon after he turned 22, Lee was diagnosed with narcolepsy, and was prescribed methamphetamines to counteract its effects. Over the next two years Lee struggled to find a midpoint between sleepwalking and speeding, and developed a serious drug habit in the process he has since kicked. “I ran out of pills for the last time and went to bed for a week and haven’t really woken up since,” he laughs. Returning to his nomadic lifestyle, Lee spent a year living in a farm truck and on couches in LA. Eventually, he was taken in by friend and famed engineer Patrick McCarthy’s (U2, REM, Madonna). The move proved pivotal in Lee’s songwriting process as McCarthy taught him how to listen and record the music he was hearing in his head.
In 2010 Lee moved back from California to Minnesota to be closer to his family. In a series of diners and motels during the long drive he penned the songs which were later released on his DIY ‘Middle West’ EP. Lee has spent the last 3 years working on a hog farm in rural Minnesota and developing songs for his debut album. Many of these songs reflect his change in focus from the guitar to the piano, a move necessitated by a farming accident that crushed of the three finger of his left hand. Of his return to the landscape that is the backdrop of so many of his songs, Lee says, “I’d been gone 10 years. I decided when I got back home, to get back to the land and the people who shaped me. Both sides of my family were North Dakota wheat farmers. Hardworking, soft-spoken, Scandinavians who moved to the middle of nowhere with nothing, and of that place made everything they needed. There’s a movement now to get back to that way of living, and if we’re gonna last a while then that’s the only way we’re gonna make it.”