Amber Digby – The One I Can’t Live Without (With Vince Gill)

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When Amber Digby sings, people listen. “Amber is a great traditional singer,” says Vince Gill, who knows whereof he speaks, and like his following observation—“which is so hard to find these days”—it’s just the simple truth.

Yet it also doesn’t do his subject real justice, because Amber Digby’s singing touches the heart, not just of anyone who appreciatse a traditional country song, but of anyone who’s ever known heartbreak, happiness, regret, loneliness—or just the compelling desire to get out on the dance floor for a night of fun. And the fact is, with each passing month and year, as she enjoys growing airplay and tours farther and farther from her home in Texas, Amber Digby and her music are reaching out to more and more and more of those hearts.
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Daniel Romano – Middle Child

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Daniel Romano is not a neo-traditionalist in the traditional sense. He’s not trying to regale the modern ear with a new take on the classic country sound. Instead Daniel Romano is like the method actor of classic country, carving his niche by offering a strict interpretation of classic country’s modes with striking accuracy. It’s not a retro sound, it is a strict, methodical re-enactment. Everything fits the period–the words, the instrumentation, the song structure.
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Albert Ayler – Free At Last

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Though Impulse! has been accused by critics of pushing Ayler into making a commercial disc, it seems strange that the label would have, since much of its roster consisted of free jazz artists. They were, after all, responsible for releasing the majority of John Coltrane’s riskiest and most experimental work. After many spins it seems more that Ayler was looking for a new way to explore his music than just making a record that would reach a larger audience. The solos on this record would have never gotten airplay then, nor would they get it now. His squeaks and honks may have R&B riffing, but the solos are too gritty for most to handle.
That is why it is time to re-evaluate this record and accept it for its musical merits. The chops are solid and the arrangements are tight. Sure this may be the first time you hear yourself humming an Ayler tune, but it doesn’t minimize the genius he put into this record. It shows an artist at a turning point, and because of negative feedback it remains an obscure record, instead of a big seller. It is time that we as jazz fans open our minds and be willing to allow artists to try on different suits. Sure quite often the results are horrid, but often the results are like New Grass.
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Psychic Ills – One More Time

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You’d think with their skull covered album, that Psychic Ills would be making more sinister, dark music. Maybe the ’10s have taken back the skull as something beyond just a looming symbol of death, decay and abject terror, because from what I’ve heard, this second album from Psychic Ills is a pleasantly psychedelic bit of rock ‘n’ roll. “One More Time” is so cruised out and laid back, the weed smoke and good energy can almost be seen wafting off of it in to the pink-tinged sky. This is psych at its most relaxed. lackadaisical even – the harsh edges worn down, the song feeling like the waking moments between dream and reality, that snatch of song that just barely climbs out of the dream world, holding on to your mind as you lay curled beneath a pile of blankets.

Psychic Ills new album One Track Mind is out February 19th on Sacred Bones.
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Phosphorescent – Song For Zula

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Matthew Houck, the man behind Phosphorescent, has meandered, like the dazed post-hippie soul that he is, from extreme pastoralism (2007’s Pride, which sounded like the work of an agrarian tribe that had never seen electricity) to extreme debauchery (2010’s soused, country-rock tumble Here’s to Taking It Easy) and back again. At every step of the way, he’s sounded dazed, trembling, and awestruck: his voice, a small, hiccupping drawl, is a fragile instrument with a thousand built-in soul catches, and he hits every single one like a drunk tumbling down a staircase.

On “Song For Zula,” off of the upcoming Muchacho, he sounds like he’s died and woken up on an unknown shoreline somewhere. The sound is bigger, airier, and more mysterious than anything the band’s ever done. Lightly skirling violin lines and gull-cry synths circle above, and silvery threads of pedal-steel guitar waft gently by. He opens with a mumbled quote from Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and then spins out a difficult-to-parse, metaphysical-feeling tale of abjection (“I lay my face to the salt”) and throwing off offered support: (“You will not see me fall/or see me struggle to stand/To be acknowledged by some touch from his gnarled hands.”) It is a stunning piece of music; it sounds like an allegory, like a dream.
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Alex Chilton – Rubber Room

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“My favorite Alex Chilton live moment occurred sometime during the ’80s at the (long gone but much lamented) Backstage in Seattle. Chilton, in the midst of a good-humored R&B set with his nifty three-piece electric combo, lurched into an appropriately creepy version of Porter Wagoner’s “The Rubber Room.” Alex, playing a Les Paul Jr. borrowed from the opening band, took off into an extremely long, out-of-this-world solo. When he finally came back to earth, it seemed like he had lost himself so deeply in his playing that he wasn’t entirely sure what song they had been playing when he started! A very enlightening moment from a very enlightened man.” Scott McCaughey
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