ALBUM REVIEW: David Corley – “Available Light”

If you grab a copy of NUVO Newsweekly this week you’ll see my 900-word interview with David Corley, a Hoosier songwriter whose work has gestated through three decades of musical, cultural and personal exploration. Available Light is one of those rare albums which arrives fully formed, as though Corley has recorded dozens of albums we just haven’t had the opportunity to hear, this being the best of the bunch.

The truth, however, is much more interesting, as is every song on the album. “Pink clouds, the sun comes like a rocket up to the edge of the horizon,” he sings at the album’s start, echoing the arrival of this music itself, a raw, beautiful example of how influential music can be when given the time to open up and develop. Echoing Swordfishtrombone-era Tom Waits and more modern acoustic folk from the likes of Alexi Murdoch, Corley has crafted what he calls an EP, but which is truly much more — thirty years of a man’s life condensed into an hour of music you’ll relive for years to come.

From the NUVO interview:

“To me, music is very magical when I write it,” he explains. “When I listen to something, there’s a certain thread that runs through the song where you can just feel when an artist means it. I have two rules about writing a song: one is you better have something to say, and the other is you better have something to say. That’s all I have.”

That level of technicolor realism is what makes Available Light more than just an amazing album. Shooting his life with the available light of a wide range of experiences, Corley does the impossible, allowing us to fully see those experiences and then transpose them over our own lives like one of those projector-slides from high school. Layers upon layers, these songs certainly have more than enough to say to keep listeners coming back time and again. And if this is the only thing we ever hear from Corley, as disheartening as that might be, we’ll still have the ultimate debut album.

I don’t, however, think this will be the last we hear from David Corley. And neither should you.

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FEATURED SONG: Miles Wick – “In Front Of You”

 

Photo Credit: Don Paris Schlotman

Meet Miles Wick, a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter who embodies equally the melodic vocals of Paul Simon and the scene-setting of Sufjan Stevens. Wick, who plans to release his latest album So Much Love on June 27th, has already been profiled in Obscure Sound and Independent Music News, drawing comparisons to Arthur Russell and Damien Jurado. Here, for the first time, we present his stunning track “In Front Of You,” which will make you a believer in the first thirty seconds, its bare-bones acoustic melody providing just enough structure to keep his rising-falling ethereal vocals from spinning out of control into the void. The arrangement’s subtle use of background harmonies blended with light bass and piano draws you in instantly. “It’s all in front of you,” he sings hauntingly on the chorus, and as the swell builds before us we’re just glad for the opportunity to partake.

Texas songwriter Justin Soileau hits the mark with honest nostalgia of “Loneliness and Wine”

Justin Soileau

I’ve been listening to Justin Soileau’s magnificent new self-titled album for several weeks waiting for the right opportunity to write something about it, and it took a listen to “Loneliness and Wine” to open the floodgates. This song encapsulates exactly what makes Soileau’s music such an engaging listen. Blending the seemingly effortless hooks of Will Hoge with whipcord-smart lyricism which rivals Josh Ritter, the song delivers on repeated listens, much as the remainder of the album does. If you haven’t had the chance to hear him, check it out. You won’t go back disappointed.

ARTIST TO WATCH: Russell Howard

Russell Howard

Singer-Songwriter Russell Howard

Like a cross between early John Mayer and the seasoned songwriting chops of Josh Rouse, Russell Howard’s “Home Sweet Home” is one of those rare folk tracks which immediately sinks in and demands further exploration of an artist’s songwriting in general. It’s astounding that this songwriter, who fully embraces the vintage folk roots which inspire his music, hasn’t gotten more widespread press for his latest album City Heart. This is folk music with enough pop edge to ensure fans will keep coming back for more — the hook in the chorus is impossible to deny. “Home sweet home is in your arms,” Howard sings. “I did not ask to cross my stars with you.” We may not have known to ask for music from Russell Howard, but one listen is enough to guarantee he’ll have an audience for life. This is the kind of music internet word of mouth was made for!

ALBUM REVIEW: Serena Matthews – “2012”

Serena Matthews 2012

Album Review
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.

FEATURED SONG: Jon Hainstock – “You Alone”

Jon Hainstock

Jon Hainstock's new song shows he's truly finding his voice.

I’ve been following Jon Hainstock since we were both enrolled at Ball State University back in ’06, and he’s continued to astound me with his elemental songwriting style. He’s laid back but forceful, and though it’s been a gradual shift, he now feels firmly in control as he launches songs of a more contemporary Christian nature. “Hallelujah … God, you alone are the one I love,” he sings plaintively, twisting the word hallelujah in such a beautiful manner, the word alone will be on the tip of your tongue endlessly as you hit repeat.

This unassuming song shows Hainstock can craft a hook like the best of them, while staying true to himself as a songwriter and a man of God:

I’m not a good person. I do not always have the best intentions. When I really examine my heart, I am a selfish sinner that blames others for my problems.

Jesus says that I have a plank in my eye that needs to be dealt with. He says that deep down I am a murderer, and an adulterer. He says that we all need His grace, His forgiveness and His love to desire Him and care for others. He says that it’s not about me and that it’s always been about who He is and what He has done.

‘Plank’ will be a collection of songs that will guide my heart back home. It is an effort to direct my thoughts, feelings, and motives towards glorifying God and loving others. I will be giving away music from this site hoping that the songs you hear will help you know the one true and living God.

Here’s hoping there’s a bigger audience for music like this — hopeful, unpretentious, shining brightly in its honest portrayal of faith. I, for one, look forward to hearing more from Plank as he continues to explore these subjects with such open introspection. You can view the video for “You Alone” below.

FEATURED SONG: Only Son – “You Stayed At Home”

Only Son

Jack Dishel, of Only Son

Those of you who have been long-time readers of Hear! Hear! know I’m a huge fan of Only Son, the solo front for Jack Dishel, formerly of Mouldy Peaches fame. His album Searchlight, which came out back in January, remains among my picks for the top albums of 2011, but he’s still bubbling under the radar. Below you can read previous articles from this site regarding the album and its various video singles, but you may also behold his latest video, this time for “You Stayed At Home,” one of the album’s least assuming tracks. It’s a beautiful melody-based acoustic track featuring the lyrics / vocals up front in a way which makes one wonder how huge a hit this could have been in the 60s if covered by a duo like Simon and Garfunkel. That’s Searchlight in a nutshell; this is an album which covers so many genres and moments in time it becomes all but timeless itself. Too bad so few people have had the chance to fall under its spell.

But it’s never too late …

Read More About Only Son
Hear Hear’s album review of Searchlight
Hear Hear’s feature of Only Son’s “It’s A Boy” video
Hear Hear’s feature of Only Son’s “Magic” video