New Albany IN | Folk-Rock
That first November 2011 night, when it all fell together at the Green House, was nothing more complicated than four friends playing music, armed with something to drink and a curiosity about what might happen. They were the generation who has come of age in the new economy, already adept at shuffling jobs and get-bys, firmly acclimated to the diminished expectations that come with growing up somewhere the rest of the world assumes is nowhere. Which, in this case, is New Albany, Indiana.
Houndmouth, then, knew each other from...around. Matt Myers and Zak Appleby had played in cover bands together for years, schooled in blues and classic rock and Motown, toughened by indifferent audiences and the clatter of empty bottles. Matt and Katie Toupin had worked as an acoustic duo for three years, when she wasn't on the road tending to a straight job. Katie and Shane Cody had gone to high school together, before Shane disappeared off to Chicago and New York to study audio engineering. In the beginning it was Shane and Matt who'd started knocking around at first, just drums and guitar, once Shane got home and free of a brief bluegrass flirtation.
The rest happened in a tumble, Zak and Katie switching from guitars to bass and keyboards, respectively. Four months later, their homemade EP in hand, Houndmouth made the pilgrimage to South By Southwest. Their booking agent convinced Rough Trade's Geoff Travis to come have a listen. Of such things are dreams made. Months of conversation and a proper studio later, their debut album, From the Hills Below the City, will be released by Rough Trade.
"We lucked out," Matt says. "We knew we were making good music. We knew we had something. But we didn't know it would escalate so quickly. Always the element of luck."
Before and after that bit of luck, Houndmouth have been on the road, building their audience. Working. Opening for the Drive-By Truckers, the Lumineers, the Alabama Shakes, Lucero, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Headlining on their own. Turning heads.
"You know good art when you see it," says Newport Folk Festival booker Jay Sweet, an early adopter, "and you know good food when you taste it. Well, you also know good music when you hear it, and when I first heard Houndmouth it was like freshest tasting art I had heard in many moons. A true musical omnivore's delight."
"I'm going down where nobody knows me," they sing during the jaunty chorus of "On the Road." The opening track to From the Hills Below the City, which is more or less the relationship New Albany has to Louisville, across the river: "I had a job had to leave behind me...I had to move to another city." A two and a half minute slightly bent pop confection, conscious of all kinds of music which went before. Self-conscious about nothing, not even the neo-rap cutting contest that snaps across one break. A blues for now, then.
The older heads are noticing, the ones who are hardest to convince. "Houndmouth is a great young band," testifies Patterson Hood of the Truckers. "They toured with us last month and brought it each and every night. They were extremely popular with our fanbase and our band. I look forward to hearing what they do next."
Rolling Stone's David Fricke joined the chorus of praise after seeing Houndmouth during SXSW '13: "They are all singers, leading with individual character and harmonizing in saloon-choir empathy. The music is earthy melancholy with a rude garage-rock streak."
Houndmouth's songs emerge with a loose-limbed swing, anchored by a sturdy rhythm and a cagey melodic sensibility. "Penitentiary," revived from Matt and Katie's acoustic days, is all dressed up as a rock anthem. It's dark, yet fun, with all those voices singing, "come on down to the Penitentiary/oh mama, the law came crashing down on me."
Matt sketches the origins of his song, which became their song. "I met a guy in Reno on a road trip before we started the band, and he was super down on his luck," he says. "We met him at a gas station, bumming money. He told me a few details that are probably in the song, but I made most of it up. I changed the setting to Texas, because it sounded authentic." And then he mentions that he was listening to Jimmie Rodgers at the time.
Hard-luck songs, to be sure, betraying a certain criminal bent. Not their stories, Katie is careful to note, but the world they've watched walk on by. "We grew up in Southern Indiana," she says. "It's not always the classiest place. So all that is not unfamiliar even if we haven't personally been through the darkest parts of it."
And yet, as she also says, "No matter how much anyone wants to write a completely fictional or narrative song, there's ALWAYS part of you in it. I think that it is important, even when writing narrative songs, that there is something real about them. That there is part of yourself in them." Houndmouth's truths, then, are emotional. For the most part.
"The dealers and the bootleggers/Got me hooked on freebasing/And I can't trust my government/So I looked into the other dimension," Katie sings, tough and innocent. "And now they got me doing bad things." "The song is a story," Katie says. "I didn't get hooked on freebasing. Yet there is part of me in it...It's also maybe about me wanting to escape, loosen my morals, not opening my heart to people."
So are the songs. Deeply emotional, that weird, powerful, essential thing the blues does that makes you feel better through the tears. Especially the songs which are deeply personal, like "Halfway to Hardinsburg" or "Palmyra." Or the sad, slurring loss of "Long as You're Home," on which they sing, "Who am I supposed to be?"
Themselves, of course.
Four musicians from New Albany, Indiana, across the river from Louisville. Where Will Oldham, Jim James, and Freakwater's Catherine Irwin live. A fecund place, and place matters. Not a sound, not a scene, but a place. A real place. "There is a familiar element about My Morning Jacket that I can't really pinpoint," Katie says. "It's kinda like what I can't pinpoint about what Houndmouth is that we all sort of get. It just makes us feel at home."
Nashville TN | Singer-Songwriter
Nashville TN | Country
Like a modern-era Wanda Jackson, Nikki Lane turns the vulnerable singer-songwriter stereotype on its ear, craftingâ¨ songs that crucify ex-boyfriendsâ¨ and have no problem with one-night stands as long as she can bolt town right after. Her cooing-yet-brutal vocals are a perfect fit with an aching, mournful guitar. Her upcoming album, tentatively titled Seein’ Double —produced by, yes, Dan Auerbach — is one of Nashville’s most anticipated releases. “My songs always paint a pretty clear picture of what’s been going on in my life, so this is one moodyâ¨record,” she says. “There’s lots of talk of misbehaving andâ¨moving on.”
Born in South Carolina, Lane moved to New York City and, after a messy breakup, picked up a guitar and set her sights on a music career. But the cost of living in New York proved to be too high an obstacle, so she turned to Nashville, a city she had visited extensively. “I was hell bent on living in a big city, and I just couldn’t work up the nerve to come back to the South,” she says. “[When I did,] Nashville was the obvious choice for me because of my fondness for it.”
Once in town, she released the 2011 album Walk of Shame to rave reviews, as well as opening High Class Hillbilly, a pop-up vintage clothing stall, where a chance meeting with Auerbach turned into a full-fledged partnership. “During the first round of recordings, I was in an awkward mood every night I left the studio,” she says. “It was hard for me to trust that Dan was right when he said I should move a verse around or add an extra chorus. He pushed to find the right feel for each track one by one, and a few months laterâ¨ I found myself with a damn good record.”
â¨- Garden & Gun, April/May 2013
Oxford MS | Rock
“My sisters were the heavens / My brothers were the depths / Now I'm rolling into battle with a smoke between my lips,” Justin Kinkel-Schuster sings on “I Want Blood,” and it's a presiding
image on the self-titled third LP from Mississippi's Water Liars. Joined by GR Robinson on bass and fresh off the success of their album Wyoming and the reissue of their debut, Phantom
Limb, Kinkel-Schuster and Andrew Bryant strut into this effort with their feathers out, driven by a need to create. Forget your precious bands that take years to release their next album:
Water Liars don't know how to stop working. A punk aesthetic – a desire not to overdo songs until they're shiny with emptiness – is the band's defining feature, and it's why their songs are
filled with such raw sorrow. When Kinkel-Schuster and Bryant's voices twine together somewhere in the greater stratosphere of sound, as they do on “Tolling Bells,” try not to feel like a
psalm. To call the songs here an improvement over what they've done before would be to sell the earlier work short. They're simply telling one story, a story that doesn't end, about the
ways we save ourselves and kill ourselves, about the terrors and joys of being a small thing in a big world, and this is just the latest installment.
What strikes you most on this new LP is the violent imagery countered with lines about love and redemption; the band's sound – also a study in contrasts, loud and quiet, fast and slow – builds off of this. There's hope here, dreadful and beautiful, but we're never far removed from having blood pooled at our ankles. On “Cannibal,” Kinkel-Schuster sings, “When you taste the flesh and sweat of the one that you love / Do you feel like a cannibal?” It's a question that haunts this collection of songs, which sways somewhere between darkness and light, between urgency and unrest. Even in love, Kinkel-Schuster's narrators drift like worried fire.
Kinkel-Schuster's voice achieves a new level of weariness here, while still sounding battle-ready. “Strange lands hold no fear for me” he sings on “I Want Blood.” And no wonder – he's a troubadour and these songs are his weapons, dripping with guts, screaming with guilt, softened by the sweet blossoming of love. His songs rumble across the plains in a gritty swirl, trailed by black clouds and lightning flashes. He has a trembling awareness of the music in our blood, and he's filled – as poets should be – with wonder and despair. Bryant – his drums and backing vocals like a deep thread of goldenness laced through the record – is the engine underneath the hood, everything he does a rage against blandness. It's impossible not to fade into his rhythm. Bryant started as a drummer in the church he attended as a kid, and the congregation would fall into the aisles, calling out to the Holy Ghost, repenting on the spot; that kind of religious fury still seeps into his playing and is alive here in new ways.
“Let It Breathe,” a stand-out, is Kinkel-Schuster's tenderest song. It's weather-beaten and weary, reminiscent of Dylan's “Girl from the North Country” and “Don't Think Twice, It's All Right” in its presentation of love-struck awe. But “Swannanoa” may be the best song he's ever written. “I looked death in the face / It was only my father / If I'd known all along / I wouldn't have bothered / with being afraid, with being a coward,” he sings. The song is deeply indicative of his rich personal mythology. Like Jason Molina and Jeff Mangum, his narrators are often swept up in a numinous dream of the world, in long mystical visits to the provinces of lonesomeness and fire and blood. These songs are testimonies, prayers, from the frozen ground to the dark universe of stars.
If you haven't listened to Water Liars, let the music be your introduction. Is it important to know that Bryant is from Mississippi and Kinkel-Schuster is from Arkansas, that they're shaped by the writers whose influence shines through in everything they make – Frank Stanford and Barry Hannah especially – and that their pain is the pain of the wretched and beautiful South? Sure, and it's all there in the songs. On “Vespers,” Kinkel-Schuster sings, “When I left her house / It was snowing out / and I left her for the South / But who cares? / We don't want no one to see us cry. / No, darling, we'd rather die.” These are songs about leaving and staying, about lost fathers and new loves, about distance and memory. These songs are a consideration of what Kentucky poet Joe Bolton called “a future that seems already to have acquired / The irrevocability of the past.” These songs smell of autumn. These songs are the hugeness of rain, the heaviness of breath, the strangeness of cities. Light a cigarette and close your eyes – let these songs whiskey into you, let them brighten your blood, let them be endless in the night.
Melbourne Victoria Australia | Singer-Songwriter
From very early on in his career, Paul Kelly has been recognised as one of the most significant
singer/ songwriters in the country.
As well as issuing an enduring body of work with his own bands, Kelly has recorded film scores (Lantana and the Cannes 2006 highlight, Jindabyne) and written songs with and for many other artists. Songs From The South, a selection of his popular songs first assembled in 1997 and expanded to a double album in 2008, continues to have wide appeal, with many of his songs now lodged deep in the Australian psyche.
He continues to cross musical boundaries. Recent albums include the bluegrass inspired Foggy Highway, the wide ranging double set, Ways & Means and Stolen Apples. The JJJ tribute album Before Too Long, released earlier this year, featuring John Butler, Missy Higgins, Megan Washington, Paul Dempsey, Ozi Batla and many others is evidence of his continuing influence on generations of musicians.
His first work of prose, a self described ’mongrel memoir’, How To Make Gravy, was released via Penguin in October 2010 accompanied by a CD box set of live recordings.