Ask an American about Irish bands/artists, and you’ll find their list pretty familiar: U2, The Pogues, The Frames, The Corrs, Bell X1, The Chieftains and The Cranberries. And let’s not forget Van Morrison. For the past 10 years a rotating group of Dubliners led by Conor O’Brien have been getting on a lot of ‘award short lists’ but not getting much of a name in the States. Villagers have just released their 5th album, The Art Of Pretending To Swim. In it you’ll hear “sophisti-pop” influences from Cousteau (the band, not the aquarian), Roxy Music, Johnny Hates Jazz and other 80s/90s/00s crooners; smooth & tight songs perfect for a snowy Sunday outside your window. While “Again” & “Fool” have been getting the most radio/YouTube attention, I took a liking to how much “Ada” reminded me of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity.”
In a 2010 interview, David Bowie said the work of Hiss Golden Messenger put him in mind of, “mystical country, like an eerie yellowing photograph,” and this limited-edition box set only reinforces that opinion. Devotion: Songs About Rivers and Spirits and Children is a new box set made up primarily of old albums, including the album Bowie was referring to when he gave his thoughts on Hiss Golden Messenger – the 2010 album Bad Debt. Along with Bad Debt, the box set is comprised of Poor Moon (2011), Haw (2013) and a compilation of rarities called Virgo Fool. If you discovered Hiss Golden Messenger in the last couple years, this box set serves as a welcome peek into the evolution of their sound. The box set serves as a snapshot in time but also reminds you that the best Hiss Golden Messenger songs are about defiance in the face of hardship. Standout tracks: “Red Rose Nantahala” (Haw) “Call Him Daylight” (Poor Moon) “Balthazar’s Song” (Bad Debt) “Back To The River Again” (Virgo Fool)
If you’re not familiar with the Teskey Brothers, allow me an introduction. These Australian Brothers have been making music for more than a decade but are just now releasing their debut Half Mile Harvest. Drenched in the American soul of the 60s with a dose of southern rock, this debut makes an instant impact. Josh Teskey’s smoky and smooth vocals are perfectly balanced by the tasteful guitar of brother Sam and bolstered by a rhythm section firmly in-the-pocket. All the musicianship is complimented by a light touch from the production room, allowing the warm and sultry sounds to take you back to the early Muscle Shoals and Stax era. If you’re a fan of anything from Otis Redding to early Allman Brothers, do check out Half Mile Harvest, you won’t be disappointed.
Alejandro Escovedo has created the most ambitious release of his career with The Crossing, a concept album focused on the story of two friends: one from Italy, the other from Mexico. They meet while working in a restaurant in the U.S. where they set out on a journey to discover the United States. The pair share a common love for punk rock as well as the vagabond spirit of Jack Kerouac. The album is more than a shade autobiographical; Escovedo is the son of immigrant parents and one of the founders of the seminal punk band, The Nuns. He pays tribute to his love of punk rock with appearances from Wayne Kramer of the MC5 and Peter Perrett from the Only Ones. The Crossing also includes appearances from Joe Ely and has Escovedo backed by the Italian band Don Antonio. The album draws on multiple sources to create a sonic travel log that establishes a sense of place worthy of such a lofty concept. One thing The Crossing is not short on is great songs. With a very robust 17 tunes, there is plenty for all music lovers to enjoy. From the rocking “Sonica USA” to the eerie, spoken-word title track, The Crossing shows us the best and worst of the United States in a wonderfully musical manner.