Hi folks, it’s time for me to post about a great new EP that was in my inbox today. As I’ve said before, I’m surprised how much submissions are still coming in every day, but this one really stands out. I’m talking about the debut release from Dutch folk singer-songwriter Kashmere Hakim which goes by the name The Hillsinger EP and which was released only two days ago. What makes this EP special isn’t its creativity or its experiments – it’s the other way around: the pure and straight-forward character is what makes it special. It shows that you don’t need more than an acoustic guitar and your voice if you’re able to write good and honest songs. And this is exactly what Kashmere Hakim does: writing honest music that hooks you up and takes you on a little journey through the arts of expressing human emotions and telling everyday yet meaningful stories.
The EP comes loaded with six songs and a playtime of 16 minutes which is just right for this kind of release. Outstanding are the melodies of Kashmere’s songs, they are fragile, sometimes broken, but not over the top, rather dry but still compelling. The opener Free People is a good example for this kind of song-writing and it shows that this man surely got a feeling for writing music. This belief manifests itself even more if you take a listen to John Henry, the third track on the EP. The melodies here are different and much more melodic and simpler than they were in Free People – and still it seems that this (a little bit blusy) style just fits the story of the song and tops it off. The free downloadable track Foreign Worker really sums up the overall picture I got of the EP with its soft melodies and its calm atmosphere. If you like this track I’m most certainly sure you’ll like the other ones too. Among the straight acoustic guitar and voice arrangements, there are some strings here and there, especially in the brilliant Grandparents House. This addition really benefits the songs and I’m convinced that there will be much more great music from Kashmere Hakim in the future if he’s able to keep up with this high quality work. If you want one of the 500 copies of the EP, just write an e-mail to Kashmere (email@example.com) or contatct him via his MySpace profile. A digital version of the EP will be available soon. Fine acoustic folk!
Hello dear CFM readers. I know that it seems that CFM disappeared from the blogosphere, but let me tell you that this is clearly not the case. It’s true that I don’t write much right now, infact I barely write anything at all. But the circumstances have changed a bit and I just don’t feel like spending so much time blogging. This doesn’t mean that I’m not into folk anymore etc. – it just means that I’m currently not in the mood to write as much as I used to do. But I think there will be better blogging times again. I can’t tell when exactly, but right now I just want to finish my studies and then we’ll see what happens. Until then I just throw some articles up from time to time and I hope you girls and guys understand my decision.
I think I also have to spend one words on the massive submissions still coming in: Please understand that I don’t respond to all of your e-mails – this doesn’t mean any disrespect for I’m very thankful all of you good folks are still interested in CFM. I’m proud that I got such great readers and so many friendly and talented bands that keep up the true spirit of folk: being a big family. But enough with the sentiment.
I decided to write an article just now to share some recommendations with you I think of as elementary for 2010. Lots of them were mentioned on other blogs, but because I just got one of my orders delivered and a load full of CDs and LPs are lying in front of me, I think it is worth mentioning them again.
Let’s start with a new release from one of our favorite folk labes out there, it’s obvious, I’m talking about the new Yer Bird output. The digital only EP Payphone Patience by Ghosts I’ve Met is just the right thing you want to listen to while the season slowly transforms from spring to summer. Ghosts I’ve Met play as a full band (percussion, violin, guitar, bass, male and female singing) and I would describe their sound as an mixture between melancholy and hope. The strings deliver some good and thoughtful moments, the percussions and drums got a lot of drive at some points (Wall Of Water). The structure and the overall character reminds me strongly of indie folk with a little hint of folk rock here and there (but really, just a little bit). I for myself had to listen to the EP five or six times to realize the enormous potentials that this music shows and I’m very curious to hear more from this promising band – realy nice music and a real nice pick from Yer Bird. To order your MP3s just click this link and enjoy some wonderful music.
Next candidate in line is the Hoquiam self-titled debut LP. If you haven’t heard of Hoquiam yet, I recommend to read the article that was posted over at Slowcoustic some time ago. The band is a project of well known folkster Damien Jurado and his brother. They both reflected on their childhood and trnasformed these thoughts into wonderful music that ofen doesn’t need more than an acoustic guitar and voice and some percussions to be beautiful. But this reductionism doesn’t lead to boring or monotonous songs; all tracks are distinct and mostly tell very original stories. Somehow I think this is not the album you will listen to the whole day long, but I think every time you play the record you will see that the overall style could be described as the thing that makes folk folk. Simple instrumentation, lots of feeling and skill to write tracks that hook you while being honest. A very great, mostly dark, but not really melancholic folk album – like a good dry red wine. Click here for a physical copy (german record store) or here for MP3s.
Let’s proceed further from Canadian label Yer Bird and the two American bands Ghosts I’ve Met and Hoquiam right to the UK and to one of the loveliest releases this year. Personally I never have heard of Martha Tilston before her 2010 album Lucy And The Wolves, but now I realize that it is a shame not to know the name of this lady. Lucy And The Wolves is clearly one of those albums you will remember ever after. It’s sheer fascinating how easily Martha manages to pack such enormous creativity into 48 minutes. Some of the songs are true folk songs like the overwhelming tracks Lucy or Old Tom Cat, others are sung a capella accompanied by nothing else then a purling brook and the singing of the birds – wonderful. But still this doesn’t catch the the whole feeling of the album, you have to add a little bit of folk pop here and there and maybe a tiny bit of jazz pop. But, don’t get this wrong, this is one fine folk record and the mentioned genres must be seen as positive additions, not unnecessary pageantry. The difference between the extremes of this album can be heard by listening to the richly instrumnetated Wave Machine, the mentioned a capella Searching For Lambs and pure folk songs (in British tradition) like Lucy. I’m more than happy that I found Martha’s music and I highly recommend to listen to this fine, fine music if you are interested in folk music from the UK (and that you should be, my friend). Order your physical copy right here (sorry, found no other link…).
Old Man Ludecke – My Hands Are On Fire And Other Love Songs (via Black Hen Records, 2010)
Listen while reading:
The Rear Guard (from My Hands Are On Fire And Other Love Songs)
Caney Fork River (fromMy Hands Are On Fire And Other Love Songs)
After our little tour around the wolrd we move back to where we started, to Canada and there we find the hell of a musician I’m absolutely fell in love with (at least with his music), I’m talking about, yeah, maybe a sleeper I read about firstly at NxEW (sadly the article seems to be removed) and later at Herohill: nobody else than the absolutely stunning Old Man Ludecke who released his new album just a little bit more than a month ago. It’s called My Hands Are On Fire And Other Love Songs and it’s an gorgeous album of, ok, I don’t like the term, but I think Canadiana. In other words Old Man Ludecke is an excellent singer-songwriter who combines bluegrass and country with wonderful lyrics and just incredible moods. I don’t know what to say, but, besides the relatively liveless album title, the album itself is the heck of a record and without doubt some of the best music I listened to this year (and it was a very good year for folk music until now with still many promising releases to come). The banjo and acoustic melodies are like a ride through the wide lands of blessed Canada. And maybe this is a typical Canadian feeling: some loneliness combined with the touch of nature. I think this is what I can feel in those songs and I think if you listen to them you will think alike. The combination of casing after nothing and enjoying every second of it as well as the feeling of a need for love and community is just what this album is all about. Every single track tells a different story that belongs into this context. Clearly a must-have. Get it here.
Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy (via Dead Oceans, 2010)
Listen while reading:
We’ll Be Here Soon (from Here’s To Taking It Easy)
The Mairmaid Parade (fromHere’s To Taking It Easy)
For our last station for today we take a trip back to the US and we meet and greet with Matthew Houck, the man behind Phosphorescent. I think every folkster already knows. And so this is not much of a surprise that I recommend the neweset output Here’s To Taking It Easy even though I have to admit that I didn’t liked Pride and To Willie too much. But what Matthew did with his newest record is simply fantastic. 44 minutes of wonderful country influenced folk pop with a good portion of psychedelic components and maybe one of the coolest album covers of the year. I don’t know exactly what makes this album so special, but I think it is the retro feeling of it. The music of Phosphorescent is strong and simultaneously retro – and retro isn’t used in the hip and cool sense of the word, but in the sense that his music sounds like an old forgotten classic in the genre. And because it isn’t an old and forgotten gem but a brand new 2010 release, you really should spend an ear or two to hopefully lose your heart to this great sound and album. I think the chances are good that this will hit many best of the year lists in 2010. To get a copy, just visit the following link.
That’s it for now. I hope you all are doing fine and you found some music you liked.
The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt (via Dead Oceans, 2010)
Listen while reading:
King Of Spain (from The Wild Hunt)
Burden Of Tomorrow (fromThe Wild Hunt)
p.s. I don’t want to miss to write a word about one of the best folk releases this year. But because I think everybody knows about this, I will make it short. The Tallest Man On Earth and his new album The Wild Hunt is something no folk lover should miss. I don’t want to talk about the album, I just promise you stunning acoustic folk with mostly acoustic guitar and a very characteristic voice. This is what you want to have if you don’t have it already. Buy it together with Phosphorescent’s album and you’ll get two very distinct albums that share the same feature: you will love them with your whole heart. Therefore I hope you already own a copy and don’t have to click this link and order your exemplar of The Wild Hunt instantly – this is a 2010 classic and every folkster has to buy it without reasoning.
If you followed the musical development of Peter Broderick, you’ll be familiar with his Docile recording which featured mostly instrumental solo piano music. Anf if you liked that, there is a good chance that you’ll like the new Sonic Pieces release as well. Dustin O’Halloran, known for his wonderful and varied skill for writing modern solo piano music, played a concert in the Grunewald Chruch in Berlin and this concert is now available for your listening pleasure – and pleasure is the right word here, even though the melodies are not exactly happy or cheerful, they are deep and warm – in a good way, they make you reflect upon whatever you think about.
I have to admit that I have had a little bit of a hard time finding the right words to describe this music to you – and I still have. It’s easier for me to talk about folk than modern solo piano. But what I can tell you is that the acoustics with the light reverb and hall are perfect to underline the hovering character and the airy, bottomless mood of the compositions. It feels like you are alone in space and surrounded by nothing else than those wonderful silvery notes. Each track on the disc seems to tell a story, but the more you concentrate on its contents the more you get sucked in into a shimmering specter of pure sound – the sounds become colors and you seem to melt in them. But as I said, every track tells you something, every track seems to have a specific structure woven out of successive hollows. Fill in the gaps and you have your story, if you don’t fill in your own thoughts, well that’s ok too, than you can enjoy the crystal clear notes and melodies in the above mentioned color-transformed sense without your thoughts being affected.
Ok, maybe the whole thing got a bit to much metaphorical, let me put it in drier words: Vorleben effectively affects your thoughts with the provided mood coming from each composition, maybe you even feel a bit hazy while reflecting and listening. On the other hand this music can also be enjoyed pure – just the music, no thoughts – then you will find yourself in a world full of crystals and diamonds with no other inherent meaning than just being there.
Overall Vorleben shows again that Sonic Pieces is one of the top German labels combining folk and modern classic/neo-classic and that Dustin O’Halloran can be rightfully considered one outstanding figure in contemporary composition. Therefore Vorleben is one hundred percent worth buying – not at least because of the wonderful packaging which makes every release a collector’s item. So, if you like solo piano/contemporary classic/neo-classic or however you call it and you’re searching for some wonderful instrumental piano music, give this concert a try. To get a copy of the disc, just visit Sonic Pieces, choose your region and order quick (for Sonic Pieces releases are known to sell out very fast). If you like, spend some time on Dustin O’Halloran’s homepage too.
As a big supporter of combining folk and neo-classic or contemporary classic music, CFM is proud to feature one outstanding and remarkable band you mustn’t miss in 2010. Stylistically very different, Feast Of The Hunters’ Moon reminds me of South China’s debut full length Washingtons – structurally at least. Most part of Black Prairie’s sound is instrumental music even though the vocals from Annalisa Tornfelt were included in some tracks (and rightfully so, because they sound great and very folksy). The tracks reach from more bluegrass oriented ones (Black Alley) to tracks that are similar to classical compositions (A Prairie Musette). It’s interesting to see how this Portland/Oregon based band again shows the enormous talent that emerges from this place of the world – with ease they present such an outstanding debut that you won’t belief it – too ingenious are the melodies, too intense are the moods of the different songs. But this wonderment about the skill that is inherit to the album finds itself shattered if I tell you that the musicians which form the band are not new to music at all – in the contrary, Black Prairie features three members of The Decemberists (Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee and Nate Query) (so you know where the experience comes from…) and the above mentioned Annalisa Tornfelt as well as Jon Neufeld (both referred to as “two of the city’s finest folk stylists” by the Sugar Hill Records Press).
If you expect an album that sounds like one from The Decemberists, you are lookin in the wrong place; Feast Of The Hunters’ Moon is folk and folk only. Roots can be heard (Home Made Lemonade) along with some Balkan influences (Tango Oscuro) and even a touch of jazz found its way into those folk tunes (Crooked Little Heart). The result is deep, intense, varied and creative – simultaneously with all the deepness that can be found throughout the record, I wouldn’t say that it’s melancholic or even introverted music. This music needs room to develop, this music needs to be heard – and if you listen carefully it even invites you to a little dance (Annie McGuire). In the end I would say that Black Prairie’s first album has the perfect balance between calm and quiet and aroused and lively music – there is light and therefore there’s also shadow. I strongly recommend to check out this amazing piece of (mostly) instrumental folk music – clearly one outstanding record in 2010. To purchase your copy of it, just click this link and get your MP3s at iTunes. For further information make sure to visit the band’s MySpace site.
Some beautiful Saturday morning folk is what makes a Saturday morning (or noon or afternoon, depends on when you get up) so wonderful. Today my Saturday soundtrack to get you through the day is the amazing 2009 full length debut Kvöldvaka by Icelander acoustic folk singer-songwriter Svavar Knutur. Kvöldvaka “is Icelandic for “Evening wake”. It means a night of stories, songs, singalongs and contemplation.” As I first read this translation for Kvöldvaka I knew that this is the music I’m looking for and to which CFM is dedicated to – and of course this assumption was right and so I’m happy to present to you this wonderful folk record you mustn’t miss to check out.
Normally I don’t like music where I can’t understand the vocals because of language barriers – but in this case I’m toatlly fine with it because the songs are so fascinating and full of feelings that you don’t have to understand word for word to understand what the song is about. Even though not all tracks are written in Icelandic, 5 tracks are (out of 11) and I consider this is worth mentioning because it shapes the overall character of the music (at least if you’re not speaking Icelandic). I actually think that Dansa is my absolute highlight from the album and even though I don’t understand one single word, I’m totally fascinated by the nocturnal acoustic guitar melodies, the slightly melancholic timbre of Svavar’s voice and the wonderful backing vocals that are supported by a smooth, deep and slow bassline. And that’s just one example of the great music you can find. Another one is the opener, an interpretation of the well known traditional Clementine (maybe you remember the interpretation by Daniel, Fred & Julie from their self-titled 2009 debut – if you do, you should compare both versions and see how different and how good they both are). Very good opener that shows the talent not just to repeat a song but to mold and forge it into something own and unique.
The mood of Kvöldvaka is not always dark and somber, sometimes a hopeful shimmer blinks through and dreams of a somehow softer and calmer world – this is what adds a little indie folk feeling to the record that suits it very well (e.g. in Yfir Hóla Og Yfir Hæðir). What’s not so good, in fact terible, is the brake at the end of the album with the 11th track being some sort of a lightly sarcastic, unnecessarily comedic and in comparison disappointing bonus track called Leipzig. I totally miss the honest atmosphere, the true and authentic sound and the reference to the previous tracks. But I don’t want to overstress this point, because it’s the last track and maybe just meant as a bonus (and some sort of inside joke) and not as a worthy track of the regular full length.
Besides this blemish there is absolutely nothing that should obtain you from giving an ear to this astonishing music. The sound is real, the music comes from the heart and if you are a fan of acoustic folk, this is one album for you to celebrate the beauty of our favorite musical genre. I think Svavar Knutur impressively showed that he got enormous talent and that you should be curious about the following releases (CFM will keep you updated). To get your physical or MP3 copy of the album, head over to Svavar’sbandcamp site and buy the music there. Additional information can be found on Svavar’sMySpace.
Our good friends from Electric Western Records are going to release their third record due to April 26. CFM wrote about Electric Western’s debut (Derek Hoke’s album Goodbye Rock’n’Roll) earlier and I’m happy to hear some fresh sounds from the label. Stylistically Jacob Jones takes the same line as Derek Hoke because Bound For Glory is another very good singer-songwriter, folk and (alt) country record. But although the genre is the same, the execution is very different. Maybe you remember Derek Hoke’s album, back then I said that I really like the music and the different colored songs, but I had the feeling the album wasn’t too cohesive for it seemed that the album was more a best of singles collection (positively meant). This lack of unity is surely nothing you can criticize in Jacob’s case because the whole album feels totally flawless in structure und arrangement.
Bound For Glory shows itself from two sides. The major part of the album is characterized by country/folk singer-songwriter ballads, full of emotions and slowly played. Especially the second half of the record got some of the best tracks. The other part are songs which are more aroused, cheerful in melody and with fleet-footed vocals. The Blues Ain’t Got Nothing On You and Broadway Queen are two examples for those more spontaneous tracks. Broadway Queen maybe could be the single for the radios, but because of this it also is a track without too much deepness although the violins add some confident happiness to it and are very remarkabel and catchy. I don’t think it is the best track on the album, but it is easy to see that it fits in very well after The Blues Ain’t Got Nothing On You that is not so different in character.
There are two more of those wilder tracks, one in the middle of the album (So Long Woman) and one at the end (the piano driven Great Big World that serves as an opulent ending to the record). You see that the soft and slow tracks are mixed with those lighter ones and this mixture works very well because most of the tracks are really sentimental and sad wherefore songs like Great Big World ginger up the overall sound a little bit. But as I said above, the real strength of Jacob’s song-writing lies in the slow and mid-tempo ballads which are overwhelmingly beautiful and gripping. Outstanding example is Bonnie And Clyde, the dark and somber timbre and the beautiful female vocals that support Jacob are just incredible – my favorite track from Bound For Glory.
Summary: Bound For Glory is a very elaborate folk/country singer-songwriter album with some wilder, country pop influenced moments. Maybe Broadway Queen is a bit too much of a radio tune but in the end all the tracks work very well together. The acoustic moments with just acoustic guitar and vocals are equally great as the moments accompanied by harp, violin, piano, drums and percussions and of course slide guitar. I think this (alt) country album can be a very good friend inbetween springtime and summer – at least I think it could be, for I’m just in the mood for this type of music. Maybe you’re too, so check out Electric Western Records’ Shop and pick up a copy as soon as it hits the road (April 26). Also make sure to visit Jacob Jones’ MySpace. Watch out for the artist as well as for the label in the future – big things are coming me thinks.
I got a bit lazy at Easter and so there were no posts in the last few days – but CFM is back, at least for today. I decided to write some words about one of the two new Elephant Micah releases: Plays The Songs Of Bible Birds. And I have a very strong reason for doing so because I think this is the best folk record of 2010 so far. But let’s start at the beginning. As I first read the news over at Slowcoustic that Elephant Micah was releasing two new albums, I instantly listened to the files provided by the artist for each albums over at Elephant Micah’s band page. Loon Call, the opener of the Echoer’s Intent CD sounded just wonderfully sad and was full of emotions; in the contrary Loop And Lil from Plays The Songs Of Bible Birds was very lo-fi and missed – as I thought after first listen – some deepness. So, due to the amount of money on my bank account, I decided to order only the Echoer’s Intent release. It arrived one or two weeks later and it is a damn wonderful and great acoustic folk record with some good J. Tillman influences (indeed unmistakable). I listened to it over and over and every time I listened to it I got more curious about the other half of the two records. Fortunately there were some good internet spirits that opened up the opportunity to listen to the full album – that’s where the magic begun: One day I worked on my master’s thesis and Plays The Songs Of Bible Bird was in repeat mode – and I think I listened to it 5 or 6 times in a row. Every time it played I got more and more hooked and the album slowly became one of my favorites. That was also the moment I realized I made a mistake by not purchasing both albums in the first place – and so I ordered what I had missed. Leap in time: Three days ago my copy finally arrived here and I’m more than happy that it arrived safe and sound – for in the meantime I listened to it over and over and I got convinced that this has to be the acoustic folk album of the year 2010 (so far).
I don’t want to tell the whole story surrounding the release, you can easily read it over here, but I want to point out that I think I have found back my faith into lo-fi folk (in the MacGregor Burns article I thought I had lost it to a certain degree). I don’t know why exactly, but the first time feeling listening to Loop And Lil completely turned itself inside-out and now I think there can’t be a better way Elephant Micah could have presented his songs – the raw charm of the recording and the fragile tracks are completely fitting opposites (yeah…). The backing vocals of Beth Remis add up wonderfully to Joe O’Connell’s (the real name behind Elephant Micah). I can’t explain why those tracks got such a hold on me, but I know for sure that the ingenuity and the occurring J. Tillman influences are part of it – but I don’t want to overemphasize the point, that the album got some similarities with Joshua’s style of folk, but it sure is one aspect of it. The Brither Bird, The Better (the secret title track) is one of the best tracks I’ve ever heard even though there is nothing that would make it special or something: decent percussions, a simple bass line, simple guitar playing, ok, there is a more experiemnetal center section, but that’s clearly not the reason why I love this track so much. It is the whole atmosphere – the melting of the contrasts. – Maybe I should mention another influence I realize, especially while talking about the J. Tillman influenced The Brighter Bird, the Better: the follow up track, Imagenary Melodies, just shows how close Elephant Micah is to releases of Sam Beam’s early folk phase where he wasn’t afraid of sounding lo-fi and reduced (I just name the wonderful The Sea And The Rhythm EP). Anyway, you mustn’t think of Plays The Songs Of The Bible Birds as of an easy rip-off of those artists – there is more than enough O’Connel in the music to make it independent from the others (especially Are You A Christian? shows this impressively). And also the second objection you might have, namely that Joe just didn’t feel like or wasn’t able to record the tracks in a “proper” sounding way, is completely bullsith. One point objectively and another subjectively prove that. Firstly: Just listen to Echoer’s Intent and you will see a clear and clean produced acoustic folk album, without all the lo-fi – so if you don’t like the lo-fi stuff, just give a listen to the other album. And secondly, the subjective point: I don’t think that those tracks would have sounded nearly as good as they do if they would have been recorded in the Echoer’s Intent way – they need the contrast I spoke of above, they need the raw and the gentle – beautiful portraits drawn in ash (soft breeze). I just repeat it, this is my album of the year so far and I highly recommend to check out both releases and buy them as long as they are available (note: Plays The Songs Of Bible Birds will also be available as a LP version soon). To have a look at the albums, just visit Elephant Micah’sband site – to buy them head over to Time-Lag Records (here and here). CFM awesomeness guarantee!