There’s nothing “Artificial” about the love the Local Strangers show for all things folk on Left for Better

The Local Strangers

Photo Credit: Derek Orbiso Dizon

Left for BetterNothing puts insomnia in its place better than the discovery of a post-worthy track. Something about the Local Strangers’ “Artificial Love” jumped out at me after their album Left for Better had accidentally slipped to the back-burner. But this Seattle duo brings the Midwestern charm of Over the Rhine to this bare-bones piano and vocal showcase, as Aubrey Zoli channels Karin Bergquist even as she adds her own smoky charm to the recording.

And though this is the album’s sedate closing number, the rest of the album is equally worthy of praise. “Uptown,” featuring Matt Hart on vocals, is a cross between Glassjaw Boxer-era Stephen Kellogg with slight touches of modern Mumford folk, with a hook which won’t quit. And “Daniel” lets Zoli shine yet again, making believers out of all of us as her voice melts over the carefully paced bluegrass melody and harmonies which would make Fleetwood Mac melt in their prime.  “Can’t you make it look easy?” Hart sings over a hand-clap march of percussion and banjo, slyly answering their own question as the harmonies soar.

This is a keeper you’ll hopefully still be praising well into the new year.Left for Better is an assured album from a duo ultimately comfortable enough in their own skin to produce a album deftly merging varied tastes into one of the year’s best intimate listening experiences.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Lindsey Buckingham – “Seeds We Sow”

Lindsey Buckingham

Album Review
Lindsey Buckingham – “Seeds We Sow” (2011, Buckingham Records)

Reviewer: Madison Faulkner

There seem to be two Lindsey Buckingham’s that exist on the icon’s latest solo endeavor, Seeds We Sow. The legendary rocker’s newest release proves to be a fusion of the Buckingham that once was and the Buckingham that is. Listeners are given a choice as to which Buckingham they prefer — the harmonious crooner humming over the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar or the fast paced, stern vocalist layered over frantic, gritty synth blare with the occasional guitar solo.

The title track starts the album off strong as the sweeping chorus plays through with accompanying strings as Lindsey cries. The definition of each note played is pure and symphonic, done only in the brilliance that Buckingham can offer in his melodic lullabies. Airy whispers echo on as the song fades out, “Oh the seeds we sow”—a little cheesy but I will forgive him for that. He, did, after all give us Tusk.

The rest of the album is hit and miss for the artist. “In Our Own Time” is a dizzying, fast paced number with Buckingham’s vocals layered over an annoying buzz-like warble reminiscent to that of gnat in your ear, producing a cheap and unwelcome effect. “Rock Away Blind” once again showcases Buckingham’s uncanny ability to capture the poetic beauty of rock music. Lindsey’s mastermind is complemented by the toe tapping, gentle melody that carries you along as vocals sweetly coo in and out, weaving their way through the guitar’s rhythm.

Lindsey’s split personality rears its head once more in “One Take”, delivering its direct, stern vocals and a gritty, pulsating guitar riff. The genius of Lindsey’s frantic finger picking guitar solo is almost enough to save this song but falls short when Buckingham half-heartedly raps through parts of verse.

The album comes to a close with Buckingham’s breathy, tender cover of “She Smiled Sweetly” sending listeners off with the same image of Buckingham as when they entered; melodic, gentle vocals accompanied by the brilliance of his cadenced guitar playing.

We want to keep Lindsey as he was in Fleetwood Mac but as he ever so swiftly progresses into old age, perhaps he has earned the right to let his freak flag fly. Some of the tracks on Seeds We Sow verge on the edge of progressive with their hurried, synthetic rhythms but the album is salvaged by the brilliance of Buckingham’s songwriting and saccharine sweet vocals. Some listeners will appreciate the assortment Buckingham offers and those that do will find the outnumbered tracks varying in style much to their liking as they lose themselves in the genius that is Lindsey Buckingham.

FEATURED SONG: Madi Diaz – “Let’s Go”

Madi Diaz

Madi Diaz

Madi Diaz survived the rigors of Paul Green’s Rock School, and came out capable of producing solid ear-catching pop music worthy of more ears than she’s gotten so far. She’s got the chops to pull off a Fleetwood Mac cover of “Wild Heart” just as deftly as she covers Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” — which makes her pretty damned interesting in my book. That her original pop music is as invigoratingly smart and hook-laden is reason to keep her on your radar. Enjoy a stream of “Let’s Go” from her EP Far From Things That We Know, below:

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Tin Cup Gypsy

Tin Cup Gypsy

Tin Cup Gypsy

These Nashville cats arrive on the scene with a fully fleshed out sound that takes the likes of Nickel Creek and Alison Krauss’s Union Station and melds this with the capability of handling seventies-era California country with equal ease. They’ve earned praise from Sara Evans, with whom they’ve toured, and they’ve performed on large stages, everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry to the Late Show with David Letterman, and everywhere else in between.

My only question: Where has this band been all my life? Their sound pieces together just about everything there is to love about contemporary bluegrass, country and Americana, without trying to court pop-country success that would dilute their sound in the process. More than that, they’ve got stage presence and the ability to sound great in a studio setting and on a live stage. Their latest album, Calico, has been out since January, and it deserves to make more waves in the country world.

Check out a recent live performance below with new song “She Just Is,” as the band opened for Sara Evans last fall:

Then check out their cover of “The Chain,” by Fleetwood Mac … which unbelievably only has TWELVE HITS on YouTube! What the hell is wrong with the world?

This is music which deserves to be given notice. As soon as I’ve had a chance to hear the entire album, I’ll definitely have to give Calico a review here officially. Until then, spread the word! This band’s the real deal.

Lindsey Buckingham and the fingerpicking style

Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham, guitar legend.

This was just too good for me not to post. I’m a HUGE fan of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, and these lessons he gave Guitar World regarding his finger-picking style blew my mind. Makes me almost wish I’d taken up guitar instead of drums in high school (or that I was coordinated enough to pull off that style).

He may call himself a self-taught “primitive,” but Buckingham is clearly among the strongest rock guitarists of his musical generation. Watch these videos and feel free to argue with me if you’ve got the inclination. As far as “dream interviews” go, spending an afternoon talking to Buckingham would be at the top of my list.

This is my favorite example of his finger-picking style: