Echoes of Enlightenment, Whispers of the Ancients
The wondrously blended combination of traditional Celtic music with various styles of music from India is what Four Shillings Short does best. From Vedic harmonies and spiritual Ragas to Gregorian Chants and Gaelic hymns they skillfully perform all with elegance and grace.
Originally founded in the San Francisco Bay area in 1985, and surviving many line-up variations over the years, the husband/wife duo of Aodh Og O’Tuama and Christy Martin puts on a captivating performance. They are just the exact amalgam of exotic and familiar to enchant the senses. They have toured around the world doing 150 concerts a year and have released 12 albums. Aodh and Christy are indeed troubadours in the truest sense of the word. Continue reading “Four Shillings Short Interview” »
Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous
Reviewed by Michael Lohr
Lincoln Durham is a rare breed of musician, every note he plays, every song he sings feels honest, like it’s the truth, the dirt road gospel, just like Johnny Cash. As my Grandfather once said, “He’s as right as rain.” But Lincoln has a darker artistic side to his persona, a darker side that he explores more extensively on Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous. Yes, he’s right as rain, but with this rain storm comes with roaring thunder and black lightning.
Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous, his powerful follow-up to the landmark The Shovel v The Howling Bones, picks right up where the last record left off. This is Blues with a deeper verve, a muse recognizable to Robert Johnson or Son House. Case-in-point, the murder ballads on this album will give you the ‘heebe geebees’ –especially “Beautifully Sewn/Violently Torn.” “Ballad of a Prodigal Son” is the darkest Delta Blues since the aforementioned Robert Johnson went down to those infamous crossroads. Continue reading “The Blues and Roots of Lincoln Durham” »
The Harrow & The Harvest
Reviewed by Michael Lohr
It would be fair to say that for all of us Gillian Welch fans at-large, we truly wish she would record on a more regular basis. That being said, the arrival of a new record is a cause for celebration.
Dubbed the Queen of rustic, Gothic Americana, Welch and life-partner Dave Rawlings pen tunes that tap into a certain spooky vibe. She spins the kind of tale that will make the hairs on your neck stand on edge and bathe you in a wash of cold chills. With songs such as “Silver Dagger” we see the countryside through the ghost eyes of a murder victim. “Scarlet Town” chafes at the soul with the blackest of raven feathers, hinting at darker secrets buried within. While songs like “Tennessee” and “The Way the Whole Thing Ends” accentuate the undertow of sorrow that permeates existence in Appalachia, a fatalistic din that is the soundtrack of life in poverty-stricken, forgotten rural America.
Since 2003’s “Soul Journey,” Welch worked with The Decemberists, while Rawlings released what essentially was a solo album, “Friend of a Friend” in 2009. They did some sporadic touring here and there, but for the most part, silence. Now with the darkly dazzling “The Harrow & The Harvest” the agonizing wait is over.
Live at the Winterland Ballroom, December 1, 1973
Quicksilver Messenger Service
Reviewed by Michael Lohr
From the dusty pages of musical history comes a previously lost concert from the legendary, if not severely underrated, Quicksilver Messenger Service. Recorded live in 1973 at the equally legendary Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California, this release displays one of the primary anchors of the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene in full stride.
By 1973, founding guitarist John Cipollina had left QMS to form his own band Copperhead, but for this gig Copperhead had been the opening act and Cipollina agreed to sit in on the QMS gig. The results were hard rocking, early 1970s musical magic.
The opening track “Losing Hand” is a full on swamp fuzz blast that would be at home on an Allman Brothers or early Lynyrd Skynyrd album. On “Play My Guitar,” Cipollina and second guitarist Gary Duncan exchange dueling lead lines in an Allman/Betts inspired jam. “Mojo” is heavier and much more ferocious live than the studio version and in my opinion the quintessential QMS song here and perhaps overall. Vocalist Dino Valenti never sounded more focused and composed. And of course the prerequisite QMS cover song “Who Do You Love” is included in this set and comes with an almost eleven minute jam session (broken into two parts) at the end.
For anyone who is a Classic Rock fan or 1960s rock music aficionado, this is a must have recording of a rare concert when the band in question was firing on all cylinders. For this style of music, it doesn’t get much better than this!
Alexis Kochan with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
This album is a hidden jewel in the classical Renaissance/Medieval musical scene and would make a tasteful addition to your Medieval/Classical musical collection. Kochan performs these festival songs and dance tunes with precision and emotion. Czarivna was arranged and conducted by Arthur Polson and performed by members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra to perfection. Songs such as “The Call for Spring”, “Kupala”, “Silver Geese” and the title track lend themselves to ceremonial dance. But take note, many of these songs are written and performed in variant minor key modalities, which to the untrained ear can be perceived as moody and abstruse, but this is the style of Ukrainian/Slavic folk music. Czarivna is a highly specialized record and not for everyone. But for those of you desiring something different, both Classical and Renaissance folk traditional, you will find Czarivna a sensuous musical adventure.
~ Michael Lohr
Reviewed by Michael Lohr
Neil Young has always done whatever he wants and taking risks much of the time is in his DNA. It’s who he is as a person and as an artist. But in 2015 who’d have thought that the “Godfather of Grunge” would do a Vegas-style Big Band mash up for his 35th album release. Ten songs of bigger than life, lavish orchestration and jazz rave-ups set to melodramatic flamboyance. And it is good, very good, if you’re into that sort of thing. Think Crazy Horse meets Michael Bublé with a 92-piece backing orchestra.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by just how enjoyable this album proved to be. But granted, it may not be for everyone. “Storytone” has bold, brassy arrangements from Chris Weldon (the aforementioned Michael Bublé) and Michael Bearden (Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga). From the heavy orchestration of “Plastic Flowers” and the heavy handed protest song, “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?” to the Big Band and Jazz influenced ditties like “Say Hello to Chicago” and “I Want To Drive My Car” Neil is all about the Vegas schmaltz on this album.
“Glimmer” is a track standout, as it shimmers with strings and melancholy mawkishness. The one track that doesn’t work for me here is “Tumbleweed.” It is a full-on orchestral driven song that honestly feels like it fell off of Disney movie soundtrack. Continue reading “Neil Young’s Recent Releases” »
The Vintage Caravan
Nuclear Blast Records
By Michael Lohr
Of late, Germany’s Nuclear Blast Records, traditionally a heavy metal label, has been signing retro rock acts right and left. Bands like Austin, Texas-based Scorpion Child as well as Sweden’s Blues Pills and Free Fall have been spreading their retro-colored jams across the globe with much success. Now, along comes Iceland’s The Vintage Caravan, a group of three young pups barely out of their teens, and they have released their debut album, “Voyage,” that is nothing less than pure late 60s psychedelic, hard rock bliss.
The Vintage Caravan is Oskar Logi Agustsson on guitar and vocals, Gudjon Reynisson on drums and Alexander Orn Numason on bass. When discussing the band’s overall sound, think a combination of Cream’s Disraeli Gears meets Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, but with a modern, progressive approach. The sound is heavy but is not without psychedelic-infused elegance.
The opening track, “Craving” is a fast paced, heavy rock song that will demand you shake your moneymaker. It’s the perfect starting point on an aural journey down the rabbit hole. The next tune, ‘Let Me Be” is a heavy-toned, mostly instrumental with a blistering guitar solo. This song, when played live, usually becomes an extended jam session. But in all honestly, almost all of The Vintage Caravan’s songs could become an extended jam session with ease, and that’s a cool thing indeed. Continue reading “The Vintage Caravan: 60s Psychedelic Revisited” »
The Slambovian Circus of Dreams
A Box of Everything
Red River Records
With influences as diverse as The Decemberists, Jethro Tull and the Philadelphia’s Mummer Parade, this exciting Alt-Folk/Americana meets Renaissance Faire troubadours collection only just begins to touch upon the fascinating Slambovian musical world we visit. From such oddments as “A Very Unusual Head” and “The Trans-Slambovian BiPolar Express” to more traditional tunes like “Sunday In The Rain” and the wondrous, cello-driven “A Good Thief” the band’s skill shines brightly.
The song “Lost Highway” with its exquisite arrangement and instrumentation may be one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded. While the title track is a Folk-Proggy standout that is a close second.
Overall, “A Box of Everything” is an adventurous compendium that is well worth the listen!
Reviewed by Michael Lohr
Essence of a Real American Cowboy
by Michael Lohr
Cowboy music has been making a strong resurgence in recent years and the man at the forefront of this movement is R.W. Hampton. His rich, baritone voice and exceptional songwriting skills have made him a living legend.
A real, American Cowboy through and through, R.W.’s lived this life. As an ex-cowpuncher on ranches from Texas to Wyoming, he certainly knows what he sings about. With thirteen albums to his credit, including his latest, “Austin to Boston,” he’s won almost every Western music industry award available including the Western Music Association’s Outstanding Male Vocalist award. Most recently, R.W. won a Western Heritage award for “Shortgrass,” the final song on “Austin To Boston.” “Shortgrass” was also named Outstanding Original Western Composition.
Now having been inducted into the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame at the WMA’s annual Awards Show and Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this past November, R.W. has reached the pinnacle of his profession. In light of this great accomplishment, American Cowboy sat down with the man himself to discuss the ‘path taken’ thus far. Continue reading “The R.W. Hampton Interview” »
The Bardic Kings of Scotland
by Michael Lohr
When it comes to Celtic music and in particular, Scottish traditional music, the Tannahill Weavers are as celebrated as the Chieftains are in Irish traditional music. Founded in Paisley, Scotland in 1968, the Tannahill Weavers have been touring and recording for almost four decades now. They were one of the first bands to incorporate the predominately solo instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipe, as an integral component to their signature sound. A few years ago, I had the pleasure to see the Tannahill Weavers in concert and in doing so witnessed the power and emotion of the Great Highland Bagpipe first hand. During the performance of the instrumental “Inter-Celtic Set” from the record Epona, when the Great Highland Bagpipe kicks in, the sheer force from the wall of sound leaves you shivering and covered in ecstatic goosebumps. Continue reading “The Tannahill Weavers Interview” »