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!
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.
There are several upcoming folk releases in 2010 a serious folker mustn’t miss: The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt, the new Fleet Foxes record, Matt Bauer – The Jessamine County Book Of The Living, Horse Feathers – Thistled Spring, the new Damien Jurado album Saint Bartlett and of course the new Will Oldham output – just to name a few outstanding highlights. One entry form that list was released just recently and I think most of you have witnessed its arrival. The man with the thousand strange names, Will Oldham, paired up with The Cairo Gang and recorded The Wonder Show Of The World. Judging from the name he chose, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, this is the direct follow up to 2009’s Beware album. (Side note: Funtown Comedown was recorded under the moniker Bonny Billy wherefore I think it wasn’t meant as the follow up to Beware, for a different name means a different sound as Oldham said once).
The sad news first: the label didn’t provide free tracks and so I’m not able to embed any of the fascinating songs The Wonder Show Of The World has to offer. Indeed, there was a previously released track (not included on the album), a Cornay Twitty cover version of Play, Guitar, Play, but it doesn’t really represent the whole record, maybe the mood and the atmosphere are similar, but the overall sound is quite different. Anyways, it’s better than nothing. The closest track from the album to Play, Guitar, Play seems to be the beginning of Where Wind Blows, a dark, very laid back acoustic folk track that gets richer and fuller to the end. But the lo-fi character of Play, Guitar, Play is completely gone, instead Paul Oldham did a very good job mastering the final results. Very clear sound, a skillful play with the depth (voice often in the foreground, decent drums in the back, guitars and bass well placed, not overemphasized but always very clear). I like this sound and it shows the songs at their best.
In comparison to Beware, The Wonder Show Of The World is much more intimate, more reduced and overall darker. There are no “hits” like the wonderful I Am Goodbye, but this is nothing you’ll miss, for it only would have disturbed the atmosphere of the album. But as in nearly every Will Oldham album, there is some hope shining through all the tracks, no resignation – and that seems to be fitting very well for I can’t imagine a resigned Will Oldham. I don’t want to decide if this follow up is better or worse than the previous output, but one thing is for sure, it’s different. Nevertheless it’s another classic in Will Oldham’s repertory, a must buy for 2010 and surely one record that will also fascinate the audiences in the years ahead. Don’t miss the new Oldham and visit this site to find the right distributor to order your copy immediately. Long live Will Oldham!
I hope you are ready for some of the best acoustic folk I listened to in a long time. Lindsay Clark’s album Thistle The Maker, which was released back in April 2009, is the cause for rejoicing. The songstress from Portland is dedicated to the purest form of acoustic folk and doesn’t need anything else than her beautiful voice and her guitar to record an album full of emotions and slowed down tunes, sorrowful, sad, but still with a little hope left. Her voice has a very wide range and the melodies she sings make strong use of this fact – the alteration between loud and high tones and nearly whistled deep tones delivers the necessary variety to keep the album entertaining while being as reduced as it is. And it shows one more time that the often read statement that a girl/guy with just a guitar is something boring or something that lacks deepness and reflection – to the contrary – these girls and guys have a even harder job to create good music, because there is just a narrow range of stylistic posibilities. All the more amazing it is to hear such fresh and honest and just wonderful music that’s so full of heart.
Listening to Thistle The Maker I had to spontaneously think of acts like Joanne Robertson, Laura Gibson or Lotte Kestner. They all play a very chilled and laid-back folk even though their music isn’t comparebal in all aspects (naturally). But if you like one of the above mentioned artists, you surely will love Lindsay Clark. And I have a very strong feeling that she has the makings to play her way into the first division of folk. And while I’m typing this, every single note I currently hear proves that – Daybreak, the last track of the album, is playing right now and the interplay between slow and sleepy guitar melodies and more clearly audible guitar play and louder and stretched tones in her voice is just oh so wonderful.
I have a hard time to name what track on the album could be the best one, for I think all tracks are top notch and nothing than the result of outstanding singer-songwriter qualities. The little variations that can be found throughout the whole record bring out the main points and set outstanding highlights. I’m talking about some back ground vocals here (Sweet Clover or Waxwings), some strings there (also Sweet Clover or The Symbol) and great ammounts of silence, which rightfully is used as an instrument (Blackbirds). In Children you even find some decent, sparsely used drums and percussions.
There is not much to add, Lindsay’sThistle The Maker is just the right record if you’re really into singer-songwriter music and acoustic folk. This isn’t a record most of your friends will like (for you are reading CFM you should have experienced that already) but it’s downright not a record you should listen to together with a crowd of others. This music is like an intimate moment for you alone, maybe together with some good like-minded folks. This music needs the quiet – as much as you need it and as much as you love it (at least sometimes). This music is fragile and it should be treated like that. You know what I mean, but I wanted to point that out, because Thistle The Maker is that exqusite fare you have to search for very long, very hard and often very unsuccessful. To get a copy of this piece of folk art, head over to cdbaby.com and buy yours there. For more information, visit Lindsay Clark’sMySpace. And be prepared to hear some new material of Lindsay in the future, for she’s searching for recording locations and musicians right now. I’ll keep you informed.
The wonderful Gold & Silver Recordings are back with a new release, a compilation full of acoustic folk at its best. (And you can win an exemplar of it! Wow! More information at the bottom of the page!) Featured are well known artists as well as mostly unknown names which have one thing in common: spare beauty and the magic of creating sad music mostly accompanied by acoustic guitar. You’ll find artists from the US, the UK and Germany – I really like the idea of flawless musical borders and the result shows that the tracks harmonize very well even though they span nearly all around the world. Along with this, the compilation is also a very important sign to the world that Germany’s folk scene is growing and already has got some serious talent. And I don’t say this because I’m proud that there are some serious folk rumors in my home country, I say this for the songs are really that good and because Haruko and Hlynur Gudjonsson did a fantastic job in collecting, partially recording, compiling and releasing this snazzy folk gem.
You won’t be surprised when I’m telling you that Haruko and Hlynur Gudjonsson have songs of their own on the compilation, seems quite natural. I’m just a little bit surprised that they decided to not put on exclusive tracks. But this isn’t a complaint, because both tracks are simply beautiful. Haruko’s song Autumn, Golden Trees was taken from her debut full length Wild Geese and Hlynur Gudjonsson’sNashville Sky Pt. 2 from the great Death Was A Stranger EP (reviewed here). Where Haruko’s voice is ethereal and her guitar play lulling, Hlynur Gudjonsson’s is dark, sad and full of melancholy. But these two songs aren’t the only things you want to listen to, take for example Harmony Circles by Itai Faierman, lo-fi in character, really dry, but still one hell of a folk track with catchy vocal melodies. The contrast to Robh Hokum’s fuller, warmer guitar sound creates a nice tension and especially in comparison to the fantastic, slightly experimental Olenka & The Autumn Lovers song Iron Pump, the variety of the record is proven – but all the time within the boundaries of acoustic folk. The last three tracks of the first half (of 14 tracks overall) display this variety again, even though Frère De Song’sIn My Room is a great addition to Robh Hokum and not so different in style, maybe again a bit richer and fuller in sound. But Frère De Song’s voice got a intense dark night feeling to it and this makes this song really special and one of my favorites. But while talking of favorites, I have to mention Brooklyn/New York based Christopher Paul Stelling…oh, what a fantastic, what a pushing track he contributed. Flawless Executioner shines with wild finger-picked acoustic guitar play and a totally emotional, often collapsing voice. Honest and real. – The completion of side one, so to say, is Jose Delhart (we posted on him earlier). His track got some world music influences from Eastern Europe, I think, and is a nice addition to the whole compilation. But especially this track shows a little weakness of the release, for the volume levels fluctuate quite a bit sometimes. But ok, that’s not really a big deal.
Let’s get to the b-side of the Gold & Silver Compilation #1. And atmospherically harmonious the second half opens with a very quiet and somehow scary track from The Canoe Man that totally reminds me of Flying Saucer Attack’s track In The Light Of Time form the Further album. Ok, it’s not as noisy, but the vocal style is quite similar and so is the overall atmosphere. I don’t know if I should call the track folk, but at least I call it awesome! Jonathan Hicks, the next artist, is more folksy again and his fine little Song For Sailors, with the sea in the background, is quite a nice pick and the somehow droning voice represents both the drinking habit of stereotypical sailors and the rough ocean waves. Annalena Bludau is one artist I knew of for quite some time, musically, but I don’t know, I never got warm with her music. The more I was surprised that her song Laces Of Your Shoes, is such nice, traditional folk, just voice and acoustic guitar, nothing experimental, a decent sound, but a very good mastering, the voice in front, but the guitar not far behind. Really nice melodies and a really good song, maybe I have to rethink my previous opinion about her music.
So, there are only the last three tracks left and they make a really nice final. Things In Herds combine folk sound with the sound of bands like Savoy Grand, I think. The result equally sounds folky with gentle guitar melodies, but also like some good old slowcore (in the vein of Savoy Grand, not necessarily Low). This slowcore moment is also the perfect basis for the following piano and vocals track by Thankyoustreetsound. Sad in melody it is a great track to listen to while leaves are falling and everything turns into brown and yellow shades. Very good music for the night. I think it would have been the perfect last track for the compilation, but I can see the point, that this could have evoked the feeling as if it was put at the end because it doesn’t really fit in musically. That’s not the case, but I think everyone who has at least little fun creating mix tapes and playlists, knows about the problem of the last two tracks. So there was a decision necessary and Haruko and Hlynur Gudjonsson decided to put Patrick Graham’s song Turn Into Dust to the end. And I understand the reasons for that, the track represents the whole compilation, pure acoustic folk, pure acoustic guitar, very nice song structure with an very interesting break shortly before the end. And then the last notes pass away and then there’s silence (what is not true because the compilation runs on repeat here, but anyways…)
Ok, now the part where I tell you what to do to win an exemplar of this great CDr compilation: just write a 5000+ words essay on the topic of contemporary folk music. HAHA, yeah, just kiddin’ here…if you really want to win that copy, just write me an e-mail and I will randomly choose one winner from all entries. This contest will last 24 hours. If you don’t get lucky and you still want a copy, you should visit Gold & Silver Recordings’ MySpace site and order your copy via pm or mail. And don’t forget to write me that e-mail – fine music’s waiting!