American Songwriter is proud to present the The Muse August Sampler, a hand-picked selection of ten new tracks from some of our favorite artists. And best of all, it’s free! You can download the sampler by going to this URL: http://americansongwriter-august11.bandcamp.com/
Check out the playlist below. Track reviews by Dan Weiss and Lucian Crockett.
Beirut – “East Harlem”
Zach Condon sounded mature at the ripe age of 19, commandeering a Balkan horn section and synth programming in equal measure, so it’s comforting when he croons, “The sound will bring me home again.” The more stripped-down “East Harlem” is all stately stomp, and possibly the most flattering context for his Rufus Wainwright-like voice since 2006.
John Hiatt – “Train To Birmingham”
“I’ve been riding on this train/ Drinking whiskey for the pain,” sings a familiar voice only a mother could love. Clearly this is country three different ways, and Hiatt as usual does elegant things with the tropes: “But I die a little slower/ On a train to Birmingham.” And Hiatt’s fellow train-besotted troubadours like Todd Snider and Hayes Carll owe a debt to his mush-mouthed style.
Matthew Ryan – “Hey Kid”
Matthew Ryan sounds like Paul Westerberg with a sore throat. So two of the easier bits to make out from “Hey Kid,” “Okay/ All right/ It’s not all right,” and “You know it’s all fucked up,” would be in typical Replacements fashion if not for the bits of retro-electronica(!) surging around them.
Bahamas – “Hockey Teeth”
Afie Jurvanen’s sense of humor is in fine form on a fine melody: “I’m thanking the lord for blessing you with hockey teeth,” he serenades his not-so-typical object of affection. “Hockey Teeth” is the perfect valentine from a guy with a rickety croon whose album cover is his mug shot.
Grayson Capps – “Coconut Moonshine”
Covering tunes from Taj Mahal and Anthology of American Folk Music on the same album, Grayson Capps knows the deep-crate roots from which his gutbucket voice conjures. “Coconut Moonshine” is a rave-up all his own though, particularly when the New Orleans horns jump in for the surprising splashy finish. Lives up to the title.
Daniel Isaiah – “High Twilight”
Isaiah’s echoey patchwork of doleful pedal steel, plucked acoustic and flickering organ may be the usual chamber-folk but it becomes resonant when he lists what’s getting him down: “I made a lot of friends but they were crooked,” “My vision is deserting me” and the extra-postmodern complaint, “You never had much flair.”
Lera Lynn – “Bobby, Baby”
Not only can this Athens songstress write a damn good song, but she can also tell a damn good story. Lynn’s country-tinged vocals really shine on this droning ballad about a guy who just can’t seem to catch a break. The morose lyrics almost overshadow the beauty, but Lynn lets the song shine at the bridge, when the band kicks it up a notch and she shows off her pipes.
Leagues – “Magic”
With a simple yet driving riff and alluring vocals from lead singer Thad Cockrell, Leagues seem to have struck a nice balance between indie and classic rock. “Magic” breaks down in the middle, only to build back up even greater than before, with melodic guitars and fuzzy basses. Keep an eye on this quintet because they’re definitely here to stay.
The Milk Carton Kids – “Michigan”
From their most recent album Prologue, “Michigan” shows the acoustic duo at their melodic best, soaked in beautiful vocal and instrumental harmonies. The fantastic solo that closes out the song reminds us that these L.A. troubadours can do more than strum a few chords.
Mariachi El Bronx – “48 Roses”
Mariachi El Bronx are intense, partly due to the speedy-strummed, minor-key nature of the traditional Mariachi they mine for sonic color and dynamics (Those horns! Those strings!). So don’t be fooled by plaints like “So please save some forgiveness for me” – they also rebuff “I can fall back in love when I’m older,” with a sneer.