New Tunes from Jeremy Jay

JeremyJay-01-bigI’ve been a fan of Jeremy Jay for a long time, mostly because he dances just like this photo.  As I got ahold of his new 7″ Breaking the Ice, I was pleased to see he had done a sweet little cover of Buddy Holly as the B-Side.  If you dig this song, and vinyl, you can buy the 7″ from K Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Jeremy-Jay-Words-Of-Love-Holly.mp3]

Download: Jeremy Jay – Words Of Love [MP3]

From The Closet: Waylon Jennings

waylonjenningsI know we hardly (by hardly, I mean never) cover country music here at the ATH. But if you ever feel like giving it a try, Waylon Jennings should be on your short list. The Waylon Jennings legend runs deep. Former bass player for Buddy Holly. Gave up his seat to The Big Bopper the day the music died. Co-founder of the Outlaw Movement. The Balladeer for The Dukes of Hazzard. 1/4 of the supergroup The Highwaymen. So today I present  a song from Waylon’s finest album, the 1973 classic Honky Tonk Heroes. Written by Texas native Billy Joe Shaver, the song “Black Rose” was actually banned by country music stations for it’s references to a black girl. And it doesn’t get more country than my favorite line: “The Devil made me do it the first time, the second time I done it on my own.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/09-black-rose.mp3]

The Black Lips – 200 Million Thousand

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

The Black Lips have recently gotten more acclaim, or seemingly so, for their exploits off the stage.  They’re followed around like the Paris Hilton of the indie world, but the questions that follow should really pertain to the quality of their music. It’s clear that their a ramshackle bunch of lads, but when that carries over to their music, can we follow along? 200 Million Thousand attempts to answer that question.

It’s really hard to find a ground from which to approach this album.  Sure, the obvious psychedelia surrounds the band, not to mention the garage quality that has been there from the beginning of the band’s climb into our record collections. All these qualities point to an album worthy of critical acclaim, but only if the band can bring it all together.

Here, they don’t quite execute.  There are some clear misses on the album, such as the vocal quality.  Every time this band releases an album, it seems as if they shy away from the singing being a focal point. When you come across a song like “Starting Over” or “Old Man,” it seems as if they might unleash some hidden vocal talent, but its just not there.  The rest is hazily smothered in shadowy production, disguising the vocal for the most part.

Then, you come face to face with the fact that the band finally seems to have gotten a cohesive sound together, but the sound just doesn’t quite seem original.  It’s shrouded in the past of bands like The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones. Are they trying to be ironic by miming some of the most heralded acts around or is this an honest representation of who the band truly is as a group?  The answer is certainly difficult to come by, so one must take the songs into account.

“Drugs” is a California surf-pop romper, fueled by the twang of the guitar.  Even with the shotty vocal effects, you still can feel the catchiness of the song as the group sings in unison. And of course, that is followed by the super “Starting Over,” which may very well be one of the best songs that we hear all year.  There is an inexplicable quality to the song that wins you over as soon as the guitar comes in during the opening moment.

Interestingly, there is also a soul tinge on this record, which may display some of the more banal qualities of the group as a whole, but the power of such songs is undeniable.  “I’ll Be With You” is the song you expect to hear when watching a scene from the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.  It’s got that classic Buddy Holly guitar sound, but with a more juvenile approach to songwriting.  It’s earnest, and it deserves appreciation.

At the end of the album, you have to take the Black Lips for precisely what they are: a gaggle of ruffians eager to write soulful psychedelia that they hope wins your heart.  It might not be the most original piece of work to ever come our way, but rest assured there are a bunch of songs here worthy of high praise.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/10-old-man.mp3]

Download: The Black Lips – Old Man [MP3]

M Ward – Hold Time

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

M Ward has won over fans this past year for his role in She and Him, which is deserved accolades, but lets not forget that the man on his own has always been able to record some of the more intimate bedroom listens of the decade.  He returns now with Hold Time, his first solo outing since releasing Post-War.

Opener “For Beginners” is the perfect album opener for this album, as the cooly calm vocals hum gently over the guitar, being strummed as if a slow train were approaching.  Ladies and gents, this is a slow train coming, so sit back and enjoy.

There is just something about the way that the man records his albums that seems to win you over every single time.  Based on his previous confessions, its easy to see here that he adores recording of the olden days, and he treats his own songs with similar care, coating each tune in pleasant melodies and a general warmth.  Yet, it never sounds dated when he pulls it off.  Unless, of course, he covers “Rave On” by Buddy Holly. His version is a little less clean than the original, as a little feedback seems to suit his aims purpose.  Where he lacks in the precision of the original, he makes up for it in his presentation.  M. Ward owns this song, and recreates it with a new spin, all the while holding onto the blueprint of the original. The song also features Ms. Deschanel, one of the two songs she guests on throughout the duration of this album.

For some reason, it’s really hard to escape the feeling that the singer of these songs, our narrator, belongs in the present day.  It’s as if every song, although based on modern times, is rooted firmly in the history of the past.  Perhaps this is why it always seems so intimate as you listen to the sounds coming out of the stereo.  Take “Fisher of Men,” which seems to have that same train-track guitar plucking.  It’s as if the whole song was sung in camaraderie around a campfire at a work camp during the Depression.

“Oh Loneseome Me” offers us yet another great collaboration, this time with Lucinda Williams.  Lyrically, it offers a glimpse at a lost love, and having to confront the free time on one’s hands afterwards.  But, the vocals on behalf of both artists really do remove every ounce of emotion from the listener, which always makes for a perfect song.

Interestingly, there are some genuinely upbeat moments here too, like “To Save Me” and “Epistemology.”  The repertoire that the man has at his hands allows for a great deal of variance throughout the entirety of this album.  At the core, his voice is able to adapt to varying levels of instrumentation, always holding onto the more personal level of presentation.  With each twist and turn, you hear an old friend, or even grandparent, softly rocking you to sleep.

As the beginning of the year take off, lets all hope that M. Ward gets loads of accolades for his endeavors as a solo musician with vast talent, and not just for his wonderful collaborations.  Hold Time will surely be a step towards that accomplishment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-never-had-nobody-like-you.mp3]

Download: M Ward – Never Had Nobody Like You [MP3]