Starting a new feature here on MFH in this beautiful summer of 2013. Song of the Week! I’m the kind of person who falls in love with a song and obsesses over it. It may be the only song I listen to for a whole day, a whole week, sometimes even a whole month (okay, not quite that long but it’s come close). Continue reading
Annie Lynch is one of those talents that seems destined. She began her music career as I imagine many do, begging her parents for an instrument. In this case, a violin. Lynch had spent day after day hovering in the empty halls of her elementary school, following the wain and bellow of supermarket violins emanating from the gymnasium. Infatuated with the idea of joining the Cape Cod Little Fiddlers, Lynch begged her parents for a fiddle, a request they were happy to entertain. Violin led the aspiring musician to Joni Mitchell, who led Lynch to singing, which led to guitar, which led to Annie and the Beekeepers.
Thanks, mom and dad.
The band’s latest record, 2012′s My Bonneville, showed up on my desk a few weeks ago. As the host of a weekly radio show, about 30 CDs a week show up on my desk, and though I’m shy to admit it, judging a book (CD) by its cover (album art) certainly comes into play when dealing with numbers like that. I sift through piles of your classic country cover (a cowboy boot wearin’ five o’clock shadowed man leaning against a pick-up truck) until my eyes are ready to burst aflame. The sweetly innocent (almost childlike) illustration that adorns My Bonneville immediately caught my attention, and gave my eyes the respite they desperately coveted. Instead of immediately listening to the record, I decided to put it to the side, hoping that it’s charming cover art meant what I wanted it to mean, something worthwhile on the inside. I wanted to save it for the moment in which I’d listened to too many bad country or folk records in a row. I wanted the music to be a reprieve for my ears the way the cover was to my eyes. Continue reading
At first listen, Josh Ritter’s latest record, his seventh full-length and first in three years, is your run-of-the-mill break-up record. But, stick around long enough and you begin to realize that this is no run-of-the-mill break-up record after all. It’s a Josh Ritter break-up record. And definitively so.
For years now, Ritter has been lauded as one of our generation’s consummate songwriters. A title I was hesitant to bestow him. Though a fond casual observer, something about Ritter never really clicked with me. Sure, I loved “To the Dogs or Whoever” but not on the level of his adoring fans (of which there are droves). Nonetheless, something about him always called back to me when I sped through the J’s of my iTunes library. As I whistled by, he would beg me to stop and stay for a while, the request falling on deaf ears. Until recently. Knowing that a new record was on its way, I decided to give this beloved folk genius a true and worthy moment in my own personal music spotlight. What I found was what has been known about Ritter since his debut record in 1999. This guy has it. You know, that intangible quality that exists in every line of work, from basketball phenom, to vacuum connoisseur, to musical prodigy. Yeah, the one everyone mentions ad nauseum. While, I’m mentioning it again. Because Josh Ritter has ‘it.’ From his distinctive voice to his top-notch songwriting, one minute a bonfire storyteller, heart-wrenchingly personal the next, everything about Ritter screams talent and his songs are the chorus singing his praises. Continue reading
If 2012 was the year of The Lumineers, 2013 is the year of The Lone Bellow.
When I was first turned onto this Brooklyn country-pop trio, I was wary. At first look, the group screams of a Lady Antebellum clone. Three attractive bandmates, two male, one female, harmonizing their way through country tunes. I was scared. But, the similarities end there. Unlike the former, which reeks of commercialization and the over-produced music system (Lady Antebellum feel about as natural as Captain America, without any of Steve Rogers’ charm), The Lone Bellow feel honest.
Take today’s stirring NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Tell me you’re not drawn to the band’s magnetism. Tell me. I’ll scoff at you. All three of the members could stand on their own and be successful folk acts, but the true star here is Zach Williams (the band used to be Zach Williams and the Bellow). He has a Hansardian power to his voice, and a similar contortion to his face and body as he rifles through songs. You can see the music in him, to put it in cliche terms. You know he’s not there because some label rep saw him one day and said “Hey Zach, you should join up with these two other beautiful people and make a record, it’ll sell millions.” He’s there because one day his dad told him to listen to Hank Williams (my personal guess), and he fell in love. While Williams alone would be enough to draw you in and keep you to say, The Lone Bellow wouldn’t be what they are without Kanene Pipkin and Brian Elmquist. The group is built on harmonies, which even the most novice musician knows can’t exist with only one person (this is a lie, it can, it’s just not as fun). Pipkin and Elmquist flank Williams beautifully, but they’re not just background performers. As I said above, everyone in this group could be a wonderful solo artist, and it’s not uncommon for any of the three to steal the show. Continue reading