rumors, news, and tours

I am full of the news of big changes here at HCT. Coming soon. See this space. Hmm, it could be coming even sooner if I was working on it, instead of posting here. But I love you guys and I don’t want you to think we’ve just wandered off and stopped posting, as we so often do (none of that in the future though, I swear). And once again, if you are interested in writing for HCT, email me. This is an unpaid, though very prestigious, exotic and exciting job. What do you get out of it? Free music to review. What do we get out of it? Your awesome, smart writing. Call me, you know you want to hook up with us.

The 2nd annual Lucero Family Picnic was announced today. September 13 in, yep, you guessed it, Batesville, Arkansas. Will the HCT girls be there? Can they manage another day’s drive through Arkansas? That remains to be seen, my friend. Luckily for everyone not near Arkansas, the Lucero tour starts today. Dates are here, and while I’m super excited that I get to go right away, I’m a little jealous of y’all who get Justin Townes Earle on the bill. Seriously, Justin lives in Nashville and we don’t get him on the bill here? BOOO!! Anyway, no matter where you see them, there’s rumors of new songs to be heard, so get up, get out, and go to the show!

It is summer tour time, though I swear hardly anyone seems out this season. I’m not sure if it’s gas prices keeping our bands down or what, but don’t let it keep you down too. Get out and see some people. Even if you have to take the bus to get there. Don’t know who to go see? Might I suggest The Magpies, Hayes Carll, The Old 97s (!), Bruce Springsteen (if you are up for stadium show and you already have tickets), Steve Earle, Wayne Hancock, The Avett Brothers, Lyle Lovett and dozens of others that I am too woozy to think of right now.

The new Hank III album, Damn Right and Rebel Proud, is coming at you on October 21, 2008. That’s my mom’s birthday. I doubt she’s impressed with this coincidence. The first single will be “Long Hauls and Close Calls.” I can seriously barely contain myself. Now if only he’d play Nashville, my summer would be complete.

It's a four for one special

It’s not just laziness that’s making me cut these down, but a desire to cover as much as possible when there so much music and so little time. [Well, to be fair, there’s time, but we’re killing it on the porch smoking and drinking.—Mimi] Some things to add to your list to pick up the next time you’re at your local record shop or killing time in iTunes when you should be working: The Avett Brothers, Amy LaVere, The Robber Barons and the Hackensaw Boys.

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Avett Bros. – Emotionalism

Honestly, I’m sparing you with this short review. Or sparing Mimi anyway. We already know that I can completely spaz over this band. The new album, Emotionalism, is no exception.

Overall it’s less frenetic than Four Thieves Gone or any of their previous albums. Not mellowed exactly but a change for the good. If nothing else, please get “Die Die Die” off iTunes, but the whole album is well worth the investment of your time and money.

“Die Die Die” and “The Ballad of Love and Hate” are the songs I’m currently utterly swooning over. The first is a bouncy, almost cheerful sounding reflection on mortality and how no one knows what happens when you go. It’s full of the jangly, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink folk sound you’ve come to expect from these boys, though more insightful, perhaps, than their songs of lost love. “Love and Hate” is an amazement of love and hate personified. The song tells the tale of their interactions with each other as Love opens herself to all possibilities and Hate self-destructs and tries to take everyone else down with him. [I feel this is an allegory that we should be paying attention to, but like all insight, I’d rather watch Cops.–Mimi] It’s slow and as reminiscent of a folk tale as it is a folk song.

Both “The Weight of Lies” and “Shame” are darker, grimmer than I’m used to from the Avetts. “Weight” tells us that we can’t escape from who are, no matter how far we run. “Shame” is full of its title as the singer realizes that he was a jackass and maybe can’t do anything to repair the damage. The songs are slow and carefully picked out on the guitar. There’s a smoothness to them that makes you realize how much music grows and changes even when played by the same musicians. These boys are definitely growing from a sprout of an interesting sound into a formidable tree of musicianship. [HAHAHA. That metaphor is fail. Can we insert catmacros into these reviews?–Mimi]

I’ll refrain from listing every fabulous quality of every song in detail, suffice to say you really seriously need to have this album; it’s an awesome achievement, hopefully loved by old fans of the band and a good introduction for new ones. [I haven’t heard this album, but their previous stuff always makes me feel like I’m walking down Main Street USA in Disneyland, which gives them a shiny star in my book.–Daisy]

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Amy LaVere – Anchors & Anvils

I wavered over this– I couldn’t write a full review of this because I don’t love it enough, but it’s really growing on me with repeated listenings. It’s taken me a bit to figure out what’s bugging me about the record. She has a breathy, little girl kind of voice that becomes almost creepy with subject matter she sings about. But that’s the problem. I want it creepier. Her voice is suited to a darker, rougher, old-time sound. The album almost catches it, but it’s too slick, sounds too over-produced. I’d love to see Miss Amy live with perhaps only her upright bass and an acoustic guitar played along side.

The most standout songs on this album are the ones she wrote herself, “Killing Him,” “Overcome” and “Cupid’s Arrow.” Her lyrics are dark and the music works well with them, although maybe not perfectly.

“Pointless Drinking” is a good old sad song, leaning more on jazz and torch songs than country, though Chris Scrugg’s steel playing firmly sets it on the twang side of music.

Pick up Anchors & Anvils. It has garnered glowing reviews elsewhere, and I think it’s a great start, but I am definitely waiting to hear more from LaVere as she finds her sound and settles into it. And I’ll be seeking out her debut album, This World is Not My Home in hopes of a slightly rougher sound to go with her voice.

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Robber Barons – Kerosene Communion</em>

Kerosene Communion is very Western, in a rock kind of way and also in a totally Old West kind of way. Think good 80s alternative music tied neatly up with a healthy dose of twang. It’s sharp, electric and new. Yet somehow it manages to carry the voice of 100+ years of history with it. Americana infused with punk sensibilities with lyrics that seem to come from a good Gothic novel about the Old West. [There are good Gothic novels? I protest this untruthiness!–Mimi] The album puts me on an old steam train, carrying my few possessions and wearing my one good dress and bonnet as I head for San Francisco to meet my merchant husband who has gone out to make his fortune off the influx of gold prospectors. A time when desperate people left the east hoping to find a better life, quite literally the original American dream, and there’s a certain sense of hope that permeates it all–despite the dust and the terrible conditions and the leap into the great unknown of your own future.

The Hawaiian guitar on the opening of “Slide on a Rail” pulls me right in. It’s real alternative country in the sense of using what’s traditionally expected from country music to make a different kind of music that will appeal to an audience very distinct from country radio listeners. The lyrics are neat, though gloomy, match to the sound.

“Mountain Time” kicks it up a bit and makes me a little desperate to be driving through the Rockies on wild trip with a romantic interest doomed to fail. I’m not sure I can find musical comparisons for this band. It’s not so much that they are all over the place, or completely original, but they aren’t as classified as the (mostly unclassifiable) music I cover here.

The album closes out with “Bare November Days” which kicks the leaves right off my fantasies of gallivanting through the West. It’s chill and empty in a way that’s still completely satisfying. The fiddle has the sound of solitude and the mountains I’ve been envisioning all through the album, but in this song the mountains are now dark and waiting for the heavy snowfall of winter.

This is a mood-setting album for loneliness and remembered goodbyes. It’ plays well on a dreary, overcast summer afternoon, but I think I’ll be pulling into much heavier rotation on cold, sad winter nights. Get a copy yourself, so you’re prepared for those days when we’re all huddled up in blankets and drinking hot cider. [Because we don’t have heat.–Mimi]

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Hackensaw Boys – Look Out!

One thing I know for absolute sure is the Hackensaw Boys recent release, Look Out! is definitely not hangover music. It’s upbeat, or more precisely, up-tempo. Even the slowest songs are toe-tapping to the point of being bouncy. A couple tracks strike me like they were recorded by some guys who listened to speed metal as teenagers and never quite lost the pace, even after they started playing old-timey music.

Their sound is reminiscent of Old Crow Medicine Show although there’s a more genuine quality to the Hackensaws that I don’t hear from OCMS. If you think you like OCMS, I’d put the Hackensaw Boys out as an improved alternative. (Yeah, I don’t know exactly what I have against OCMS, but they rub me the wrong way.) [I don’t like them either.–Mimi] Standout tracks from Look Out! are “Baltimore,” “Oh Girl,” “Sally Ann,” and “Hobo” on which Tom Peloso of Modest Mouse sings. Good on him for sticking with bands he’s previously been in and keeping his musical world wide and varied. Bad on me, and probably a bunch of other reviewers, for mentioning him and not giving props to the rest of the band, who surely deserve it even more.

The Hackensaws have been in heavy rotation for me for a few weeks now but, again, this is an album that requires a specific mood. It didn’t click with me on first listen and I almost didn’t give it a second chance. For me this album requires late afternoon on a sunny day, a beer in hand, and many long, uninterrupted hours on the porch and watching the world go by. [Or the drunks stumble by, which is often the case.—Mimi] Fortunately, I live in a place where all those things are easy to come by. There are still many long slow days of summer left, so I suggest running out and getting this album and setting your own toes a-tappin’.

Hmm, it’s probably best that I didn’t bother to look up any bios of the band before writing this. Otherwise you’d have gotten nothing but some squealing about how damn cute all those boys are. Dayum. [Wait, what? goes and looks AWESOME! We are so seeing them live.—Mimi]

Our boys score and have band will travel

One of the best things about this gig is opening my inbox every day and finding emails suggesting new bands for us to cover or giving us news about what’s happening with bands so that I don’t have to do the work to find out for myself.

This morning I learned that Jeff Nichols’ film Shotgun Stories is premiering at the Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 14th, 2007. None other than Ben Nichols has written the score for this movie (Jeff Nichols is Ben’s youngest brother, apparently talent runs in the family). I understand it’s a very southern story in vein of To Kill a Mockingbird and Hud. Friends and readers in Berlin or close by, y’all need to go see this, since you can see it first, and report back to us on the film and the Lucero-driven score.

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Cory Branan is playing a couple shows next weekend in Kentucky with Todd Snider. This is a double bill not be missed. If you’re within 5 hours’ drive and a fan of either of these guys, you better hop on up to see this. This tour is also taking Todd (sans Cory) through Texas and out to the west coast so go get tickets now.

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Out west is seeing some good music this winter. The Avett Brothers are there now, so I expect all you cool coastal kids in Oregon and Califoria to get up go see them right away!

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If you’re out east, our pal, Chris Milam, is touring through the cold, dank winter, just so you can have the pleasure of seeing him live and in person. When you do see him, tell him how great he is and how much you enjoyed his show and then tell him to be nicer to us here at HCT.

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And because it’s been a while since I spammed y’all with what I’ve been digging up on YouTube, here’s a very young Emmylou singing Townes for us:

I know I’ve said it before but YouTube has got to be one of the best things on the internet for bringing me things like this that I never would have seen otherwise.

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Keep sending us email, my lovelies, we love it almost as much as we love music.

A few words with Scott from The Avett Brothers

If you’ve been hanging around these parts for a while you probably already know how much we at HCT love The Avett Brothers. I’ll pretty much do anything I can to keep them at the front of your minds, get you buying their albums and keep trying to convince you to see them live. Recently I had a chance to ask Scott Avett a few questions about the band and music. Maybe if all my raving hasn’t yet convinced you, you’ll like him enough to give The Avett Brothers a chance?

Hard-core Troubadours: I’ve had a hard time defining your sound and I see every reviewer saying something different. How do you define your music? Is there even a label you can put on it?
Scott Avett: This question is asked all of the time and we don’t have an answer. I am not sure if we are even qualified to name what we do. I do believe you can label it, I just don’t know what that label is. What label would you place the Violent Femmes in?

HCT: Your music has continuously evolved throughout your albums. Is this a conscious decision you made or just a natural occurrence born out of how much you clearly love playing?
SA: This is a natural and conscious decision on our part. Everything we do should evolve and improve in some way as time passes. If not, I think we need to rethink what we are learning and doing.

HCT: How do you feel about fans pulling songs down off MySpace? (I’m mean, it must be flattering to have fans love the songs so much, but do you feel that filesharing etc. hurts the band?)
SA: The only problem we see with file sharing is when we have new songs, unheard songs and we want to play them live, which is what we live for, we can’t because they will get “released” on line before we can release them properly.

HCT: You have huge summer tour schedule ahead of you. Are you excited for it? Do you feel like you get more out of playing music for/with people, rather than just in the studio?
SA: We don’t get enough time in the studio, a lot happens when we go in the studio in a very short amount of time. I would like to see us in the studio more in the next couple of years. However, playing for people is a very big part of what we are and what makes us…us.

HCT: What’s the craziest thing one of your fans has ever done?
SA: Well, I don’t know if it is crazy but a couple named their child Avett. That might be considered crazy to some. We’ve had lots of things happen on the road and the craziest are probably best kept in the past.

HCT: What music are you currently listening to that you really love?
SA: You can’t beat the sounds of the everybodyfields from Johnson city, TN. You can’t beat the Beatles. That new Gnarls Barkley is pretty sweet. I also love AC/DC but mostly live footage. Mastodon is a great band with great concepts. Hall & Oats are of my favorites and there‘s a fellow by the name of Justin Gordon hiding out somewhere in CO that writes beautiful songs and plays some of the best acoustic guitar out there. Today I have been listening to demos that Seth and I are working on and Paleface’s new record, Play Guitar.

HCT: Are there any bands that you’ve played with or seen that you think deserve more attention, either from fans or record labels?
SA: Daxx Riggs, the singer of Deadboy and The Elephantmen is one of the best singers of rock music alive today. Also, Paleface from Brooklyn NY.

HCT: How do you go about writing songs? Is it something you all do together, or do you each bring pieces to the table and then fit them together?
SA: Both ways are useful for us.

HCT: What’s your favorite part of live performing/touring? What’s your least favorite part?
SA: Traveling can sometimes be hard on the body, sitting and waiting for so long. But, that is a minor complaint; we see a lot of things and are going to have a lot of stories to tell. I can’t count the people that I meet that are absolutely amazing.

HCT: I saw you guys perform live and I noticed that both Seth and Scott have heavy key chains that hang down and sort of work with them while they are playing. Is this intentional added percussion or do y’all really coincidentally have that many keys and just keep them around?
SA: Sometimes I think a man can be judged not by his possessions or money count but by how many keys he has. More keys, more doors can be unlocked. As we get older we have more doors to go to etc. This may not be true but it sounds like it could be.

HCT: What songs would like to cover? Song you love so much you’d want to share them in your own individual style?
SA: I like old Charlie Poole songs for covering and I am always planning to do more of them, since now we don’t do any. I also would like to cover “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oats. Seth really likes covering Sam Cooke songs.

HCT: What are the biggest influences on the current incarnation of your music?
SA: Traveling, heartbreak, guilt, shame, love, happiness, and sadness.

HCT: I know there’s a lot side projects going on with each of you, and other artistic endeavors, do you ever feel stretched too thin?
SA: YES

HCT: Do you have any advice for bands starting out?
SA: Play as much as possible and write songs about what you know. Avoid worldly issues. TAKE CHANCES and don’t be afraid of embarrassing yourself.

Even if you aren’t in a band, take Scott’s advice and take chances: check out The Avett Brothers tour schedule or go pick up an album or two. And then come back and tell me how much you love them.

The Avett Brothers, live at Grimey's Records–5/18/2006

MySpace is like sticking your hand in a murky pond and pulling it out all covered in slime and dead bugs and yet I can’t stop going there. It’s insidious crack. Please let’s talk about anything else.

I know! What’s hilarious, cute as a bug on a leaf and has six legs? The Avett Brothers live! Yeah, I’m fairly sure I should be fired for that joke, but since I’m not willing to fire myself, I think I’m pretty safe. [WTF is that comment? Wow. Lame.–Mimi]

This past Sunday the Avett Brothers stopped by Grimey’s Records to play a little post-Bonnaroo show. This worked out great for me because almost all the bands I really wanted to see at Bonnaroo are playing at Mucklewain except the Avett Bros, and since I’ve seen them now, I feel somehow complete. Miss Bunny, Mimi, and I hauled ass down to see them, and I do mean hauled as Bunny was driving and she was a race car driver in a former life. [I’m thinking demolition derby.–Mimi] It’s one of the ten thousand things I love about her. She likes to get her g‘s in where she can. I think we got some extra g‘s this weekend just from being around the bouncy energy of the Avett Brothers.

So, those brothers Avett are in fact button-cute, hilarious, and put on an amazing show. I was surprised to find that CMT has a profile for them when I went looking for pictures. The CMT profile pic is what I expected our boys to look like, playing at being old timey and just goofy fun. In fact, the brothers, Seth and Scott, currently look like cute little clean-shaven garage rock boys from the 70s, and Bob Crawford looks more like a beatnik-y hep cat kind of guy, but maybe that was just the black clothes and the stand up bass? [SIGH. But what’s their music like, Cricket? I’ll tell everyone then–Seth Avett (guitar and kick drum), his brother, Scott (banjo and guitar) and Bob Crawford (upright bass). They sound a lot like Mercury Rev, sort of jangly and discordant and roots music meets crack.–Mimi]

The show was full of folks–as always, the sort of mixed and family friendly crowd I seem to find in Nashville outside of bars–all crammed into Grimey’s New and Preloved Music. Right there in the store, not in the venue downstairs. The cute record store boys produced a few beers from under the counter and handed them out to those of age, which added a sort of “hanging out in your best friend’s house” vibe to the whole show. Some other boys rattled around the area cleared for the band to play in, setting up as we all stood around waiting for the show to start.

My insane love of the Avett Brothers has been previously documented. In recent articles and reviews I’ve been seeing them described as “kitchen sink folk” which sounds clever and interesting but I don’t think that description really covers the range of bluesy, folksy, pop-y punk, not really bluegrass, indefinable kind of music that these boys make. They crank out a swirled near-mess of sounds that come together in just the right way without falling over the edge into discordant. The instruments are what make them country or bluegrass or what have you, but underlying sensibility is purely 70s rock and old punk. And despite already loving them, owning all their CDs etc., as soon as they came out and began to play I was struck by just how fucking good they are. Recordings do not do this band justice. [I am not a fan of their recorded music, for example, but they were amazing live.–Mimi] There is an incredible depth, fullness, richness, realness to their voices that conveys emotion in a way a recording just can’t do. They also are visibly immersed in each song in a way that is so pleasurable to watch and be part of at a live show.

Being the least professional person ever, besides perhaps Mimi, I did not manage to jot down the first song they played as I was fussing with my PBR can and my handbag and generally being jostled by the other patrons crammed in for the small show. [Just for that crack, I am not looking in my notes for the name of the song. And because you stuck me with the MGD.–Mimi] Also I was pretty distracted thinking all those lofty thoughts I wrote above about how awestruck I immediately was by their performance.

The intro to the second song, “Distraction #74,” brought us the first bit of banter between the three guys made me feel like I was watching some people genuinely happy to be making music. They seemed suffused with a gleeful calm, completely wrapped in their own creations. Third up was “Left on Laura, Left on Lisa” which is one of my favorite songs for the sweet way they sing “And I gave to you my ugly brown coat/You made it pretty when you put it on.” They also had a little tech trouble during this song, but they played on around and through it very professionally, not letting anything really distract from the music. Though why they were bothering to amplify at all in such a small space was a mystery to me, as they are basically an acoustic band, but loud–surely loud enough to fill a small room. [Is this foreshadowing like in a short story or novel? *makes mysterious sound effects*–Mimi]

Before they played “Please Pardon Yourself” they conferred and cutely chatted about what song to play, or rather what kind of song to play (happy or new or something different), proving them to be huge dorks of the kind that you want to take home and make sandwiches for and hang out with (and maybe corrupt a little bit). They went on pouring out an insane amount of energy for such a small little show. Scott’s banjo playing bordered on frenetic at times and he was bouncing around like a 15-year-old skater boy pogo-ing at his first punk show. [Sigh. You are bordering on groupie-ing. Shocking.–Mimi]

The first broken string came around this point in the show, causing them to make charming jokes about how it must be the weather, and then suggesting that they traveled in their own microclimate at all times, since they were always busting stuff. Despite the tech stuff and broken strings, they continued on and went right back into the music with same intensity with which they’d started playing. [This was pretty cute, I will admit it.–Mimi]

They opened “Denouncing November Blue” with Scott telling a hilarious story about how after seeing The Song Remains the Same he couldn’t stop emulating Robert Plant during his 9th grade talent show. I wish y’all had been there to see him tell the story. It completely caused me to have teenage fangirl spaz moment. Yeah, I love this band that much. In fact, even though I’m way older than these boys, they make me feel a bit like I’m in the 9th grade and they are the cool older boys playing at the high school dance. I probably wouldn’t double-take any of them if I was passing them on the street, but they put so much of themselves into playing that they are so charming and funny and totally crushable.

They unplugged completely after several more broken strings, drum pedal problems, and guitar pick-up problems. I think maybe it was even better when it was just them and their instruments, though I was right up front with only a low rack of used CDs between me and the band. Maybe the folks further back in the store couldn’t hear as well as I could as they started “Pretend Love” (which is an insanely hilarious bit of song writing and even funnier when you see them sing it). A bit of it, “Don’t you know I’m a gift, and I’m wrapped in truth/your birthday’s tomorrow, but I am not for you/But if I came with a present, I would bring you a clue/in hopes you’d finally see, that your feelings for me/will never be returned.” [This song is good. Funny and good.–Mimi]

Their seventh song was a new song they said they’d never played for anyone before and I totally tried to record it to my voicemail, but alas I proved technically inept so I can’t even listen to it again. Sad, no? They closed with an incredible version of “Talk on Indolence” (which was previously one of my least favorite songs of theirs, but was, as everything was, amazing to see live) and “Four Thieves Gone”. For some reason, even knowing the lyrics, “Four Thieves Gone” never made very much sense to me, but the light clicked on as I watched them and wow, it’s really sort of an incredible song, right? It tracks through the break-up of a band and the subsequent dispersing of the members like a child’s fairytale. It is at once sadly wistful and yet funny.

This is the kind of band that makes you remember why you go to live music and don’t just listen to CDs at home. I suspect every show they play is this charged with energy and they make each song just different enough to make it sound incredibly fresh every time. So go see them when and if you can and I’ll spare sharing the crappy phonecam pics with you. You can go have your own experience instead of vicariously partaking in mine. [What’s wrong with phonecam pics? That’s a direct shot at me, right?–Mimi]

It gets me right there, The Avett Brothers

Every so often I have a revelatory music moment. People rec a fair amount of music to me, I read reviews all over the place and despite the fact that half of what I listen to is probably crap, I am actually kind of picky. Or maybe you can just divide the music on my iPod into two categories — first: music to listen to fill the silence and second: music to break your own heart too, to run away too, to change the world for, to change yourself over. In short music either annoys me or it doesn’t or it full-on fucking pierces me.

So what’s new in the world of owning my soul, you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya, it’s the Avett Brothers. Tritely, and to sum up most the reviews I’ve read, it’s punk rock boys discovering their real musicianship in bluegrass. Except not, you know, because there isn’t anything punk to it but perhaps some of the vocals, and there isn’t anything bluegrass to it except perhaps the instruments.

The vocals are rough, sometimes bordering on the rough emo-punk grit of Jawbreaker’s Blake Schwarzbach, but the harmonies are something else entirely. There’s a ripple and twang throughout all their music that is fully more hillbilly than even bluegrass. And I mean truly hillbilly, like mountain music, back porch music, the kind of twang that twitches genetic memory in you and makes you feel like you’ve never ever lived without a heart full of longing. Like you you’ve always been chasing a high lonesome sound and hoping for happiness on the other side of it.

Try it, you’ll like it. Or you won’t. Either way, I’ll just be over here having it own me.