Music at Elsewhere

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Ray LaMontagne: Till The Sun Turns Black (Sony)

15 Oct 2006  |  <1 min read

Singer/songwriter LaMontagne is a reclusive type whose previous album Trouble of two years ago was a critical favourite and even managed to sell around a quarter of a million copies. Not bad for an unknown whose music has a deeply personal and cathartic quality, and hardly sounds chipper or media friendly in his tight-lipped interviews. He says he envies musicians who are entertainers,... > Read more

Ray Lamontage: Empty

Joan As Police Woman: Real Life (Rhythmethod)

8 Oct 2006  |  <1 min read

Joan Wasser has been in such exceptional bands as those behind Rufus Wainwright and Antony (she's a "Johnson" in other words), both of whom are singers noted for their nuance and sometimes outre, or androgynous, approach to lyrics. She counts among her admirers Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Sparklehorse and others whom she has sung with, or played her distinctive violin-cum-viola for. Joan here sings... > Read more

Solomon Burke: Nashville (Shock)

8 Oct 2006  |  <1 min read

This great soul singer -- more correctly "The King of Rock and Soul" as he was most often described in the 60s -- is now 66. In the past couple of years, after decades away from the spotlight, he has sprung back to attention with two strong albums, Don't Give Up On Me, and the slightly less impressive Make Do With What You Got which copied the template of the former a bit too... > Read more

Elton John: The Captain and the Kid (Mercury)

5 Oct 2006  |  3 min read

By an odd coincidence I recently bought a battered vinyl copy of Elton John’s autobiographical 75 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. For some reason it had gone right past me and when I looked at the track listing it was hardly full of hit singles or even FM radio fodder. The only title I recognised was Someone Saved My Life Tonight, but for $5 I figured it was worth... > Read more

Rodney Crowell: The Houston Kid (Sugar Hill)

5 Oct 2006  |  1 min read

Rodney Crowell's star has been in steady decline since the 80s and now the former son-in-law of Johnny Cash and rockin' country singer-songwriter is on the same minor label as Dolly Parton who also seems to prefer a smaller label. On first hearing, the quasi-autobiographical The Houston Kid sounds uneven, but after a few plays its power as a series of narratives kicks in. Crowell... > Read more

Rodney Crowell: Why Don't We Talk About It

The Wailin' Jennys: Firecracker (Factor)

21 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

You can have too much of a good thing: like the slew of Cuban albums which followed the success of the Buena Vista Social Club. After a while it all just got too much and you lived in fear that yet another tiny record company would discover it too had a bunch of old Cubans in its back-catalogue. It's much the same with "that old-time music" which came to attention after O Brother,... > Read more

M Ward; Post-War (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

21 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

Matt Ward could easily be a musicologist's research assignment: this album -- his fifth -- roams effortless from hushed balladry to guitar work which sounds like the Shadows on a surf-rock kick, and from alt.rock to something Paul Simon would be proud of. And in many places he sounds like someone a few decades older -- and blacker -- than he is. He has a gruff, world weary bluesy voice on... > Read more

M Ward: Eyes on the Prize

Reb Fountain: Like Water (Fountain/Elite)

20 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

Recorded in Christchurch, Vancouver, LA, Texas and Auckland (whew), this impressive debut announces yet another major New Zealand singer-songwriting talent. Yes, in a couple of the gentle ballad tracks she does sound a little like Bic Runga (is that a bad thing?) but she also gets behind some gutsy, pop-rock guitar jangle, in other places has a weary soulful and quite bluesy quality, and... > Read more

Reb Fountain: Dust and Bones

James McCann: Where Was I Then (Torn and Frayed/Border)

19 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

McCann was once in the Australian rock band the Drones who get my vote for their great album title: Wait Long By The River & The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By. (Don't we wish?) The Drones make dark and dramatic bluesy-rock which owes debts to diverse sources from Tom Waits and Neil Young, to fellow Aussie rockers the Triffids and Van Morrison. Their new album Gala Mill (which I... > Read more

James McCann: Black Brown and Blue

The Whitest Boy Alive: Dreams (Bubbles/Border)

19 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

This German quartet started out as a dance outfit three years ago but have slowly adopted instruments and now there is no programming at all. In places here they sound like a more rounded version of early Wire (that intense minimalism) or Talking Heads with more heart than head. They aren't afraid of a memorable chorus, and there is a gentleness at work which is very appealing. This one... > Read more

The Whitest Boy Alive: Golden Cage

The Handsome Family; Last Days of Wonder (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

12 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

At first I didn't fully get this one from a duo I've long admired for their slightly wonky take on traditional country which sounds like it was made by post-graduates who got lost in the Appalachians after a seminar on contemporary poetics. But repeat plays and scouring the lyrics reveals what the title (taken from a line in a song) states overtly: this is concerned with golden moments in... > Read more

The Handsome Family: Flapping Your Broken Wings

Langoth: Grounding (Border)

12 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

My understanding is this: that the mainman here is Austrian producer Michael Langoth who invites musician friends around for Friday dinner and recording sessions, and supplies exotic ingredients to both. For example on this very groove-orientated downbeat album he plays the "gummophon" which consists of a rubber glove, a cardboard tube and some string. (Suspend disbelief folks, the... > Read more

Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy: Adieu False Heart (Vanguard/Shock)

12 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

When was the last time you read a review of a Ronstadt album in New Zealand media? Hmmm That said, I too might have passed over this one if it hadn't been for someone of impeccable taste suggesting I listen to their version of the old Left Banke hit Walk Away Renee here . . . and then I noticed the liner notes thank the people of Breaux Bridge and Cafe des Amis -- a cajun town and its famous... > Read more

Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy: Walk Away Renee

The Watson Twins: Southern Manners (Shock)

7 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

Earlier this year twins Chandra and Leigh Watson appeared with Jenny Lewis on the damn fine album Rabbit Fur Coat which was sort of neo-trad.country, if there is such a thing. Their voices were more than just counterpoint or harmony to Lewis, as this album proves. Imagine the Everly Sisters singing alt.country and pedal steel-coloured indie pop, and you are getting close. But there is... > Read more

The Watson Twins: Shoot the Lights Out

Josh Ritter; The Animal Years (V2/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

7 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

From Moscow -- the one in Idaho -- Ritter has been championed by New York mainstream and American indie press for his literate and passionate singer-songwriter style, and here that is combined with gripping and memorable songs with lyrical and melodic hooks which grab like a gaff. Latterly he's been wooing them in Ireland. The album is suffused in Biblical references -- Peter and Paul on... > Read more

Josh Ritter: Girl In The War

Espers: Espers II (EMI)

3 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

This alt.folk-cum-ambient rock outfit from Philadelphia look like they have stepped out of 1969: they are all hair, beards and hippieness -- and I swear one of the women is wearing a poncho. I suspect they smell of patchouli. So it's no surprise they have performed with the Incredible String Band (whom I thought split in about '72) and backed neo-folk star Devendra Banhart on his most... > Read more

Espers: Mansfield and Cyclops

Jhelisa: A Primitive Guide to Being There (Border)

3 Sep 2006  |  1 min read

The great thing about Music From Elsewhere for me is that I get surprised by what turns up: like this album from a woman who has pulled together threads of soul, gospel, jazz and r'n'b to create an album which is a tapestry of emotions, funkiness and finger-popping grooves. To give an idea of the breadth of her abilities and musical interests here is a partial list of who she has sung with:... > Read more

Jhelisa: Freedom's Land

Greg Brown: The Evening Call (Red House/Elite)

3 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

Iowa-born singer-songwriter Brown is one of those singer-songwriters that other artists line up to pay tribute to: in fact Lucinda Williams, Ani DiFranco, Gillian Welch and others appeared on a tribute to him a few years back. He's a poet (he recorded an album of William Blake poems) and is very much in the boho-Beat Generation lineage whose lyrics have the economy of American Zen poet Gary... > Read more

Greg Brown: Cold and Dark and Wet

Hacienda Brothers; What's Wrong With Right? BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

27 Aug 2006  |  <1 min read  |  1

The self-titled 2005 debut by these old hands -- singer-songwriter Dave Gonzalez from the rockabilly outfit the Paladins, and guitarist/accordionist Chris Gaffney from Dave Alvin's band -- sounded somewhere between Waylon's wobbly warble and Willie's languorous delivery, and their album came with impeccable credentials: it was produced by Dan Penn and had his longtime pal Spooner Oldham as a... > Read more

Hacienda Brothers: It Tears Me Up

Various: Rogue's Gallery (Anti/Shock)

27 Aug 2006  |  1 min read  |  1

Believe it or not, when I was a kid my dad -- who had spent time at sea and was never happier than when on a ship -- not only played my Beatles and his Louis Armstrong albums with equal enjoyment, but would often bang on a Burl Ives album of sea shanties. My younger sister and I grew up to the sound of him singing, "My father was the keeper of the Edison Light, he slept with a mermaid... > Read more

Loudon Wainwright III: Good Ship Venus