“HEAR! HEAR!” EXCLUSIVE: Danielle Wehr’s “Blue Tattoo” introduces a confident, relatable songwriter ready to conquer Nashville
I’ve tried my best to forget that night by the sea
But this little blue heart keeps reminding me
Now I’m bluer than my blue tattoo
I’m bluer than blue
Sixty seconds and Danielle Wehr wins you over with the indelible ink tattoo of this song’s addictive chorus. We’ve all been there: a spring break mistake when in love for the first time becomes that memory we can’t forget, even if it’s more subtle than a blue tattoo. But it’s not regret she sings of, but rather the empowerment you get from jumping in head-first and making those memories while you’re young. In her words:
This song is a song about making mistakes, you want to be young, you want to be bold and fierce, and sometimes these memories are permanently attached to you for the rest of your life, like the blue tattoo. The only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes.
Wehr is smart enough to keep the song short and sweet, introducing the hook early and then hammering it home for the songs remaining ninety seconds, demanding fast-fingered repetition and surefire radio call-ins from fans itchy to hear it just one more time. With a voice which keeps me flashing back to Pam Tillis and Patty Loveless at the start of their respective careers, and a hook which plays into the more traditional country feel of the Dixie Chicks’ stronger moments, “Blue Tattoo” is a fresh take on pop country, introducing a songwriter you’ll surely hear more from on a national scale. Fire it up and see if you don’t agree that feeling blue never felt so good!
If you’re among those who feel a new Emerson Hart album can’t come soon enough, this new single from Nashville songwriter Jameson Elder comes along just in time. A sunny melody propped up by hook-infused vocals, “Take Me Back” would have been a surefire mainstream hit in the 90s, but should still warrant word-of-mouth praise even in this “here today gone tomorrow” music climate. “It’s taking me back again from my heart down to my skin,” Elder sings, and his praise of second chances seems fitting, considering the nostalgia these days for hook-filled pop without hidden motives. With summer looming months ahead of schedule, this is the perfect track to play with the windows down and an arm out the car window, a breezy example of alt-pop done right. Whether you’re into roots-rock, pop or Americana, Jameson Elder’s got somethign for you; The Home I’ve Never Known, his upcoming studio EP, can’t come soon enough.
California singer-songwriter Danny Hamilton isn’t a household name yet, but he’s already had success in CMT’s Music City Madness competition (he finished second) and with various YouTube videos, including a bluegrass jam version of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and a few of his own originals (this one here is my favorite, a song which means a little more when you hear “I’ve been knocked down but I’m still here” while knowing he was almost killed by a truck at age 14.) But his recently posted cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s iconic “Sounds of Silence” is the most impressive of his many YouTube covers, an arrangement which manages to be faithful to the original while melding in a few Native-American flourishes which make this cover a particularly memorable one
Like the song? You can buy a download of it from ITunes!
Serena Matthews – “2012″ (2012, Independent)
The rain, it talks to me
When no one else can tolerate
My words that don’t make sense
To anyone except for me and my old friend the rain
- Serena Matthews – “Rain Song”
This album should come with the subtitle Greatest Hits, because even if you’ve never heard a word sung by Serena Matthews prior to pressing play on these, you’ll be won over and a lifelong fan once you do. Full disclosure: I’ve been addicted to Serena’s beautifully elemental folk songs since I first found her music on mp3.com close to a decade ago. Because she does not seek the limelight, her music never made a wider splash than it did on that site and various others around the Internet where she’s posted her continued creative musings over the ensuing years. Rest assured, however, that these are among the best bare-bones acoustic folk songs you’re liable to find.
The 21 songs on 2012 are each delicate aural paintings of raw depth and beauty which stand up to repeated listening because of their elemental nature. Whether she’s singing about a man going to his death (“Crow Song”) or observing the rare transcendent grace of the world around us (“Blackbird Fly Away”), Serena doesn’t mince words. Hearing these compositions all in one place after all these years simply accentuates what makes them so memorable and indispensable. Serena doesn’t want fame, but she’ll continue to have a rapt audience as long as she continues to release such stunning music. 2012 is a stirring example of Americana at its finest, and it deserves to be savored.
There’s something overtly ballsy about covering “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears, but Hannah Peel takes it to new levels of indie folk awesomeness by bringing the Pin-Barrel Harp (Sharpsichord) one step closer to mainstream acceptance, creating a haunting, original cover in the process. It’s positively mindblowing that fewer than 2,000 people have to date seen this video on YouTube, because Peel is an artist with theatrical vision and a willingness to push the folk-pop envelope in ways music fans in 2012 would be smart to quickly and vehemently embrace. The cover is a great way to get your feet wet, but her original songs are just as ready for global consumption. Just try “Song For The Sea” on for size and tell me there’s nothing here worth shouting from the rooftops.
Thanks go out to Weston, a user in the Folking Indie room at Turntable.fm, for turning me on to Michael Denvir, a California songwriter who reportedly has built a great deal of indie buzz in the region. His bandcamp page, under the nom-de-plume Beautiful Idiot Music, features four albums of sketches, demos and odds and ends which are all available for free! But where to start? I recommend the song “California Drought,” off his album “Bedroom Artist,” which skewers the music industry mercilessly, barely seeming dated despite being written eight years ago.
Not convinced? Check out “800 MPH” below on YouTube and tell me he’s not worth giving a deeper look. I dare you!
It’s been a long time since I’ve been left nearly speechless by a songwriter and his guitar, but this is one of those moments. Joe Pug is the real deal, one of those true lyrical greats in the making. He’s all but certain to be one of those American songwriters who will stake their claim on what it means to be a truly expressive musician. He’s already built a name for himself touring with Steve Earle and others of that ilk, but what’s so mindblowing is how effortless it all seems. He’s crafting pure moments of Americana eloquence, a rare combination of honesty and grit, which few other artists can match. And he’s barely breaking a sweat. Imagine what he’s still yet to create, and the possibilities are endless.
Revel in “Hymn 101,” the best song Townes Van Zandt didn’t write:
Mike Peralta has been making music ever since he first heard Nirvana and got a used guitar courtesy of his mother. And like any true songwriting talent, he lives by the credo that a writer must write, above all else. As a few moments spent perusing his official website shows, this is a guy who spends his time milking a few successful songs. He’s got more than 150 to his credit, and he’s a power-user on Twitter, using his wide base of fans to get feedback on his newest music and spread the word.
The good news is that Peralta’s music lives up to all the hype. While he’s experimental, and not every song fits into any easily defined mold — his latest, “Fosner,” has a deep grungy vibe, while “Dark Over Here” opens up with a sound reminescent of “Streets of Philadelphia”-era Springsteen — fans can always tell that there’s going to be something to get them talking whenever Peralta’s name is attached. The hook is always going to be there, even if the trappings are different.
Check out one of this strongest singles, “Wasting All My Time,” below in music video form. I expect we’ll all be hearing a lot more of Peralta down the road.
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Year of the Album — #018
The Mountain Goats – “All Eternals Deck” (2011, Merge Records)
Whether with a band or as a solo musician, John Darnielle has been building his name as one of the best living lyricists not named Dylan, album after consistent album. And 2011’s All Eternals Deck doesn’t break that pattern, proving to be an adventurous and addictive listen from start to finish.
Darnielle’s vocals remind me of a blend of They Might Be Giants and R.E.M., but his music with Mountain Goats never really fits into such an easy descriptive box. All Eternals Deck builds on the religious imagery of 2009’s The Life of the World to Come, which was something of a concept album inspired by specific verses of the Christian Bible. All Eternals Deck, its title derived from a fictional set of tarot cards described in the liner notes, takes on a more pagan angle, as evidenced by the album’s first track, “Damn These Vampires,” and “High Hawk Season,” which almost sounds like a western-noir spiritual.
In the end, the Mountain Goats stand here in 2011 ushering in the year with an album which dares to preach the word of musical invigoration, creativity and depth. Those who listen to the album are almost certain to instantly spread the word about the quality within.
To read the rest of the review, visit Stereo Subversion!
I’ve followed Kevin Montgomery for more than a decade, and he remains my favorite independent country singer. A purveyor of warm, inviting country music in the vein of the 1980s neo-traditionalists, Montgomery is also a veteran stage performer, frequently traveling the world and playing more than 300 shows a year. Needless to say, he’s honed his craft down to an art.
He’s spent most of 2010 working on a new album, Some Comfort, which has been funded through donations from fans around the world. I thought I’d spread the word on the album’s first single, “Some Comfort,” which hearkens back to songs like “Broken” and his cover of “I Wish I Were Blind,” the Springsteen classic — both of which appeared on Another Long Story. This is a talented songwriter at the top of his game, and I can’t wait to hear what else is going to end up on this album.
You can also check out “Broken” live, below, along with the Springsteen original I referenced. I sadly can’t find the Montgomery cover on Youtube anywhere (someone post it if you’ve got a live performance of it!)