DEBUT: The Underhill Family Orchestra

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The Underhill Family Orchestra, native to the Alabama delta, has been described as “outright anthemic” taking their compositions to “idyllic places” that make you want to “paint your face, forget your age, and kiss a stranger.” With “the bare knuckled nature” of their sound and their command of the “intricate, melancholy and densely literate” themes in the songs they create, they invoke a “sense of riot” with their arm-swingin, foot-stomping, Appalachia-inspired sound that makes effort to “infuse sheer pop catchiness into the rootsier, grittier elements” made up of sultry and soulful 4-part vocal arrangements and a unique take on the southern sound for which Alabama is known.

Their debut album, Tell Me That You Love Me  is out now via Skate Mountain Records. The album is a beautifully-constructed foot-stomping collection of ten tunes that capture the raw energy of the band’s live show.

No Depression premiered the album, saying that the band “has an intense and irresistible chemistry. The songs on this album are full of chemical reactions that are a pleasure to behold. Truly, the album is a testament to the power of people working together.” PopMatters noted in the premiere of debut single “When The Trumpet Sounds” that the band is ” taking their music scene by storm with their uninhibited and celebratory blend of Southern influences. The folk-rocking quintet is intent on resurrecting American roots music with a contemporary soulful rock flair that will undoubtedly get audience members out of their chairs and grooving along,” while Beehive Candy says the album’s second single “Chickasaw Fields,” which premiered via Popdust, has “gorgeous roots-flavoured vibes. The mixed vocals and harmonies are sublime, the band create a feisty backdrop…this really is ‘more please’ music.”

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A sample of their harmonies will leave you breathless.

 

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Presenting: Roots Quintent, Parsonsfield

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WE is the highly anticipated fourth release from Parsonsfield, a quintet praised for making “the most jubilant and danceable indie roots music this side of the Carolinas” (NPR).

This collection of songs finds Parsonsfield continuing to push the boundaries of their harmony-driven grassroots origins creating their own distinctive Americana, integrating pop and bold rock flourishes along the way. It has as much influence from 90’s rock and 70’s R&B as it does the folk-pop material that fans have come to expect from the western Massachusetts based outfit.

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Lead singer Chris Freeman writes “I want to be a person whose light never seems to dim. Who has the energy to live out loud until the end of the day and the confidence to know that if tomorrow never comes I’ve done my best. WE is not about you and me or even ‘us,’ the band. It’s about finding our way in the world one day at a time trying to live out each moment until the sun goes down. It’s about struggling with depression and anxiety from living in a divisive world, yet we have so much to be grateful for. It’s about being at the crossroads of yesterday’s dreams and tomorrow’s plans.”

 

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West Coast Beats: Pearl Charles

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Pearl Charles lives in the moment, seeking excitement whether it leads her down a dark, dusty road or into the arms of a trouble-making lover. Her full-length debut album, Sleepless Dreamer, describes late night revelry, love affairs, running away and running towards, serenading the sunrise through whirlwind stories of her native Los Angeles, the city, the canyon, the desert, and the road. On a quest to discover the truest version of herself, Charles embraces the feeling of not being settled, a person who always restlessly wants more from life and is willing chase it, wherever it may lead her.

Sleepless Dreamer finds her soulful, often sultry voice gliding through songs tinged with cosmic Americana, a little disco, some classic rock & roll, and a whole lot of that smooth AM gold. Passion, psychedelics and heartbreak inform the highs and lows she rides through the album. Finally able to see clearly through the smoke and mirrors of her surroundings, Charles departs on a consequent journey of questioning and soul-searching, eventually hitting the road in the inevitable search for answers.

 

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A Sound Recommendation: Brooklyn Folkies Nassau

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photo: Daniel Dorsa

Nassau is the collaborative recording project from Brooklyn-based songwriters Justin Wilcox and Jeffrey Silverstein. Both seeking new creative outlets following respective projects in Baltimore and Chattanooga, the duo formed in late 2015 out of a mutual respect for raw, honest music. Sitting on a handful of riffs and half-songs, material would soon actualize for Hoss (2016), their debut EP of tranquil ambient/folk for Fire Talk Records.

Heron, the group’s first proper LP, sees the duo hitting their stride. Recorded, mixed, and produced by Wilcox at his home studio in South Williamsburg, the album explores new territory both sonically and thematically.

Taking a far more deliberate and careful approach to writing, the album centers on the concept of change and balance.  Heron often representing an ability to progress and evolve in folklore.

A warm, full-bodied sound envelopes each track giving breathing room for interweaving guitar lines, meditative rhythms and Wilcox’s gentle vocal delivery. Relying only on guitars, drum machines, and synth, the duo capitalize on using ambient textures as a base layer for each of these 8 beautiful tracks.

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A Sound Recommendation: Marlon Williams

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New Zealand’s Marlon Williams has quite simply got one of the most extraordinary, effortlessly distinctive voices of his generation—a fact well known to fans of his first, self-titled solo album, and his captivating live shows. An otherworldly instrument with an affecting vibrato, it’s a voice that’s earned repeated comparisons to the great Roy Orbison, and even briefly had Williams, in his youth, consider a career in classical singing, before realizing his temperament was more Stratocaster than Stradivarius.

But it’s the art of songwriting that has bedeviled the artist, and into which he has grown exponentially on his second album, Make Way For Love, out in February of 2018. It’s Marlon Williams like you’ve never heard him before—exploring new musical terrain and revealing himself in an unprecedented way, in the wake of a fractured relationship.

If “breakup record” is a trope—and certainly it is—then Marlon Williams has done it proud. Like the best of the lot—Beck’s Sea Change, Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, Phosphorescent’s harrowing “Song For Zula” and Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece Blue, Make Way For Love doesn’t shy away from heartbreak, but rather stares it in the face.

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WHISKEY WOLVES OF THE WEST RELEASE DEBUT

 

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Nashville-based country/Americana outfit Whiskey Wolves of the West released its debut album, Country Roots, today via Rock Ridge Music. With a sound that is something that can only be earned by a thousand nights in smoky bars and a million miles on bald bus tires, the Whiskey Wolves are disciples at what could be the last supper of country music. A concisely focused, seven-track melting pot of an album—with tunes that are high and lonesome, yearning and dark, twangy and gritty and oh-so-satisfying— Country Roots features the dynamic songwriting and performing tandem of Tim Jones (vocals, guitar) and Leroy Powell (vocals, guitar, bass, pedal steel, clavinet, keys, harmonica), two prime progenitors of the new Nashville sound.

I feel like the music Tim and I do could easily be put side by side with any of it—we’re not shooting to sound like anybody other than ourselves,” theorizes Powell, a first-call guitarist/multi-instrumentalist for noted Music City producer Dave Cobb who’s backed heavy-hitters Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton in the studio, as well as both Shooter and Waylon Jennings. Concurs Jones, a top-cat Nashville singer/player in his own right who’s worked side by side in a band with Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket) and had Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes) as a producer and tourmate, “I’m proud to say we’re both making the same kind of music now that we did back when we were starting out. It’s the love of a genre that a certain zeitgeist movement may have briefly captured, but we never left it.”

Country Roots fully lives up to the deep-seated expectations associated with its very name, from the genre-busting universality of its lead track “Sound of the South,” to the intuitive harmonic blend that sets forth the analog-huggin’ and vinyl-lovin’ tone of “Lay That Needle Down,” to the modernized down-home duende of the title track, to the brighter vibe of the album’s closer, “#1 (The Ballad of Dallas Davidson).” As Jones clarifies with a laugh, “We wrote that one because Leroy wanted us to be able to say the very first song we wrote together was a number one.”

Making sure every song on Country Roots has a lasting impact on its listeners was critical to the duo, who had prepared more than 20 tracks before whittling down the final running order to the lucky seven we have here. “It’s a nice, short record, like those great old country records that had only ten songs on them that would last maybe 20-30 minutes,” recounts Powell. “That was something Waylon [Jennings] was notorious for doing. Every song counted, and I loved that. It’s not too overwhelming either. You don’t need to hear every song we’ve ever written—just the best ones.”

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Their very first show together was at Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, CA in 2016, and their set caught the ears and the attention of Randy Lewis, who wrote of the performance in LA Times: “Whiskey Wolves of the West… turned in a set blending rock’s bristle with country’s storytelling, [full of] songs that course across a broad span of classic country, classic rock, blues and Americana music. …the Whiskey Wolves forge a compelling gumbo…”

Here’s a taste of The Whiskey Wolves:

The Whiskey Wolves plan to tour in support of the new album.

Tour Dates:

3/21 – Nashville, TN / The Basement East (opening for Gangstagrass)
3/23 – Tupelo, MS / Blue Canoe
3/25 – Paducah, KY / Dry Ground Brewing Co.

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