They’ve got a six-pack and they’re here to save us from another drawn-out summer with nothing to get excited about. With a fuzzed-out blend of modern indie with hints of 90s-era Weezer and just the slightest touch of Jack White’s brand of forced genre fusion, Nashville’s JEFF The Brotherhood definitely bring the goods! Their debut album for Warner Bros. Records, Hypnotic Nights, comes out July 17th should see the Orrall brothers finally get some notice after their six underground albums which got them here. You can pre-order the album via the band’s website.
Not An Airplane – “It Could Just Be This Place” (2012, Indpendent)
A twisted, tasty morsel of what alternative country should always strive to reach, Not An Airplane, led by the balls by Nick Shattell, shows that music doesn’t need to be distilled to the barest common denominator to have something worth saying. A Kentucky-fried bluegrass-pop opera consisting of two single-song fifteen-minute acts (“Speak In” and “Speak Out”), the album distills a relationship from start to finish in all its gory glory (or as Rolling Stone puts it: “operettas of heartbreak autopsy” — take that, CSI!). It’s a whirlwind of frantic bare-bones introspection. Imagine the Drive-By Truckers pairing up with Drag The River with a libretto written by Jack White and you’ll go into the listening experience at least mildly prepared. Beyond that it’s impossible to put into mere words how much fun will come from repeating this pair of brilliantly conceived songs until your speakers break or your neighbors break the door down demanding just who the hell you’re listening to. It Could Just Be This Place is daring songwriting from a band not content with the status quo, and if there’s a more fitting way to start 2012 from a musical standpoint, I sure haven’t found it yet!
Year of the Album — #054
Chris Thile & Michael Daves – “Sleep With One Eye Open” (2011, Nonesuch)
If Chris Thile is doomed to be wrongly pigeonholed as the man who modernized bluegrass and then killed it, as many misguided bluegrass fans still deride him, he’ll always be able to point to Sleep With One Eye Open as the album where he played to the conventions of the genre. What’s all the better is that the album stands as a testament to just how amazing a phenom he truly is, as he and guitarist / vocalist Michael Daves take bluegrass back to its roots while maintaining a sense of glorious fun about the proceedings.
Recorded at Jack White’s Third Man Studios during a madcap three-day “live to tape” session, the album is at once the most invigorating and impressive album Thile has been a part of since leaving Nickel Creek. With the Punch Brothers he gets to dip his toes in the musical pool filled by Bela Fleck and his contemporaries, but on this album he takes on Bill Monroe and Del McCoury and proves he more than deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as such legends. At this point if there are still people out there saying Thile isn’t traditional enough for bluegrass, it’s time to kick them to the curb. The rest of us can enjoy this thoroughly fresh breath of air. At this point he’s proved there’s nothing left to prove for one of contemporary bluegrass’s pure originals.
Chris Thile and Michael Daves, two legends of modern bluegrass (Thile as a mandolin phenom and Daves as a superior guitar picker) have decided to team up with Jack White at Third Man Studios in Nashville to record Sleep With One Eye Open, due out May 10th on Nonesuch. The album, which features the two phenomenal musicians recorded during four days of marathon studio sessions, may be the closest Thile has come to recording a “straightforward” bluegrass record, but no one’s expecting the duo to play it staid and conventional.
“Mandolin and guitar and two male voices—it’s such a good sound,” Thile says of the new album. ”It was important for us was to get that brother duet thing, but with this Lower East Side punk energy. One of the most enjoyable things about this experience was to underline the slightly delinquent side of bluegrass.”
And while Thile has frequently been something of a bastard stepson to the bluegrass elite, who have accused him of modernizing the genre at the expense of centuries-old traditions, he’s always been at the forefront of creating inventive, original concepts that push this roots music forward into a new century. Here’s hoping this album helps bridge the gap between the new guard and the traditionalists, because Chris Thile is by all accounts the most interesting musician bluegrass has had to offer a new generation.
Check out the title track from Sleep With One Eye Open below:
God help me, I can’t get this song out of my head. I had read a little about Leopold and His Fiction when their second album Ain’t No Surprise came out last year, but I never took the plunge. Now I’ve got to play catch up, and there’s no reason you all shouldn’t be coming along for the ride! “Golden Friends” is one of those rare blues/rock hybrids that all but defies “simple” descriptions, with vocals that deftly blend Jimmy Page and Jack White in a raw recording that does everything within its power to bring the live experience into the studio, whatever the cost. The band is up to the challenge. I’ll shut up and let you give it a listen, and you can share in the addiction. I’m definitely going to have to give this album a listen.