September 26, 2010
Reminiscent of times past, Harlem River Blues draws upon many influences creating an album that could easily capture a multitude of audiences. From the graceful whine of the steel guitar to soulful horns to walking bass lines, Harlem River Blues captures the essence of American music.
As the son of singer-songwriter Steve Earle and named for Townes Van Zandt, Justin Townes Earle was bound to musically shine at some point in his life. I think Harlem River Blues announces Earle’s arrival in the spotlight.
Though each song on the album would most likely fit in a different era, Earle’s songwriting allows his music to transcend decades. In fact, if it weren’t for the lack of vinyl static and his mention of things such as “satellite radio,” one might feel transported to country music’s golden history.
Each track seems to build upon the one before it creating smooth transitions of sounds that take the listener on a journey from Brooklyn to Tennessee and even Chicago. The album’s title track, “Harlem River Blues”, kicks off the record with familiar bluesy country riffs, and each consecutive track is a pleasure to the ears.
“One More Night in Brooklyn,” has an infectious quality that causes automatic hip swaying as Earle sings, “One more night in Brooklyn. Baby, we’re getting lost.”
The third track on the album, a fast moving tune with an almost rockabilly inclination, “Move Over Mama,” is about a woman that has become too comfortable being alone.
“Slippin’ and Slidin’,” employs gritty guitar, wailing horns and poignant organ to lull the listener into a soulful, musical coma. As Earle sings, “Darling, I just need a little company. Ain’t seen the sunrise since I don’t know when,” emotion wells up in the listener inspiring empathy for the singer’s lonely journey.
The next track, “Christchurch Woman,” is noteworthy as well with a gently rolling rhythm and witty lyrics that one will be singing after a few listens. With quick guitar riffs and steady piano, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Harlem River Blues is a lovely, melancholy foray into the world of Americana. Justin Townes Earle is a truly gifted songwriter and musician that has learned how to harness the journey of life in music form. Though not his first musical accomplishment, Harlem River Blues possesses qualities bound to set it apart from Earle’s previous records.
“Lord, I’m goin’ uptown, to the Harlem River to drown,” opening line of “Harlem River Blues.” The only drowning involved in this album is the ability to drown out your surroundings while listening to it. –Amelia Tritico
Harlem River Blues was released on September 14. Justin Townes Earle is on tour.
September 1, 2010
Youth Is In Our Blood by The Dirty Guv’nahs amazes by its both simple and complex musical styling, lyrics, and composition.
It’s simple because somewhere in the deep recesses of my soul, I’ve heard it before—possibly in the melodies of The Rolling Stones or in the jams of The Allman brothers or more recently, the grit of The Black Crowes.
Youth Is In Our Blood is complex because it’s unlike anything I’ve heard being produced today. It’s a combination of all those soulful bands that are deeply loved and a new voice adding to Southern Rock’s glorious past and apparently bright future. The Dirty Guv’nahs bring back old memories, create new ones, and allow the listener to step into a marvelously happy musical existence for a total of 51 minutes and 55 seconds.
Started in Knoxville, Tennessee, The Dirty Guv’nahs formed on a whim when the bass player, Justin Hoskins, volunteered the Guvs to open for a band already slated to play at a local benefit. The only problem was that The Dirty Guv’nahs didn’t exist yet. They quickly joined together to play the benefit and decided to run with it.
Two albums, countless shows, and four years later, there are thousands of fans ecstatic that The Dirty Guv’nahs chose to follow their path of musical destiny. James Trimble, lead singer, and Michael Jenkins, guitarist, do most of the songwriting, and they seem to know which words will reach listeners in a way most songs don’t.
Youth Is In Our Blood was recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York, in December of last year and has all the makings to be a modern rock masterpiece. The first track “Baby We Were Young,” embodies the whole theme of the album. “Love was the shape we made, love was the breath we drew, and youth was in our blood,” belts lead singer James Trimble.
Each track oozes lessons about love, life, and the measure of youth. “Walk With Me,” is the story of man accepting and loving a woman despite her problems. “We’ll Be the Light,” is a feel-good anthem epitomizing rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s talent truly shines in “New Salvation,” as lead guitarist, Cozmo Holloway, is given a chance to really shred, and “It’s Dangerous,” warns against the dangers of finding love in a bar. “Blue Rose Stroll” is the band’s longtime fan favorite, and it’s difficult to keep oneself from dancing or singing along when this tune starts playing.
I’ve heard some fans sound disappointed due to the abundance of ballads on Youth Is In Our Blood, but I personally think they make the album. “Courage,” speaks to listeners on a completely different level than other tracks. Trimble’s voice croons, “Courage moves within me, makes me shake. Looking for an ending without the wait.”
“The Country” is a beautiful, lilting melody dedicated to a failed relationship, something to which most of us can identify, and the addition of Jill Andrews voice singing harmony with Trimble’s is enough to send shivers through the spine. Written by keyboardist Chris Doody, “Seeds on the Rise” deals with the struggle of loss: loss of a relationship and a loss of faith. It allows the listener to believe there’s hope for those of us foolish enough to think we can control every aspect of our lives.
The Dirty Guv’nahs are a group of intelligent, passionate young men out to change the world, one rock show at a time. Fueled by conviction and talent, the group travels from city to city, spreading love, happiness, and a new form of rock reality certain to charm young rock fans and remind the old ones that youth is in the blood, not in a stage of life. –Amelia Tritico
Youth Is In Our Blood was released on July 20. The Dirty Guv’nahs are currently on tour.
August 17, 2010
Destroyer of the Void, the fifth album from the dynamic Portland-based Blitzen Trapper is more than an album; it is an embodiment of the human experience. This band manages to take obvious influences from past greats and make something unique.
It takes a certain skill to build on greatness while maintaining originality, and that is exactly what these six talented musicians have done with their fourth full length album. Front man Eric Earley’s superb poetic lyrics flow over an array of instruments ranging from piano to harmonica to rusty guitar. If 2008’s Furr proved that Blitzen Trapper was one of the best modern bands at capturing the essence of the past while still being forward thinking and inventive, Destroyer has set it in stone.
Destroyer of the Void opens with the title track, a Bohemian Rhapsody-esque epic, that can best be described as a journey; one which whisks the listener through assorted genres, decades, and feelings like a dream. “The Man Who Would Speak True” relies on hauntingly exquisite poetic prose, an unquestionable specialty of this band, a talent which can’t help but transport the unsuspecting listener to another time and place, alien, yet so familiar.
Sorrowful yet lovely, depressing yet uplifting, traditional yet progressive, this album is a mish mosh of juxtapositions. Destroyer of the Void is an experience in itself. In these twelve songs, Blitzen Trapper captures the pain and sadness, yet undeniable beauty that is the prevailing nature of the fragile human spirit. –Angie Roach