Music at Elsewhere

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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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Dylan; Modern Times (Sony/BMG) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

27 Aug 2006  |  <1 min read

Bob Dylan's 31st studio album in the 44 years since his self-titled folkie debut -- confirms his status as one of the great songwriters whose powers are undergoing a late-career reinvigoration. Lyrically this is a dense album -- a beautiful song like When the Deal Goes Down edges its way between the spiritual and the secular -- yet Dylan has seldom sounded so relaxed as he is on the easy... > Read more

Beyond the Horizon

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

Miriam Clancy; Lucky One (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

19 Aug 2006  |  <1 min read

I was sent an early copy of this album and invited to write the bio for Clancy -- an Auckland-based singer-songwriter I had not met or seen live. I had no hesitation: this 11 song debut of originals was so full of lyrical maturity, sophisticated song writing, heartfelt songs and raw emotions (I'm now quoting from the bio, obviously) that I happily agreed to go in to bat for her. The album... > Read more

Miriam Clancy: Lucky One

Guy Clark: Workbench Songs (Dualtone)

19 Aug 2006  |  <1 min read

Clark has been one of the pillars of West Texas/Mex-influenced singer-songwriters, and of his dozen or so albums at least half would be in any serious country and alt.country collection. For this album he sometimes sounds much older than his 65 years, sometimes considerably younger. That's a measure of how he puts himself into his carefully hewn lyrics (all here co-written with various... > Read more

Guy Clark: Magdalene

Thomas Dybdahl: "that great October sound" (Glitterhouse/Yellow Eye)

19 Aug 2006  |  <1 min read

Some voices -- like those of Jeff Buckley, Antony (of the Johnsons) and Aretha Franklin -- just draw you to them. In the alt.folk scene the late Elliott Smith had such a gift. You felt he was speaking to only you as he revealed intimate secrets. This Norwegian singer-songwriter is like that -- and international critics have been quick to make the Smith/Buckley comparison. Nick... > Read more

Thomas Dybdahl: All's Not Lost

Ramblin' Jack Elliott: I Stand Alone (EMI)

28 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

To be honest, I thought he'd died years ago. Most people who influenced Bob Dylan back in New York in the early 60s -- like Woody Guthrie who mentored Elliott -- are long gone. But not Jack, it seems. For one of Dylan's first gigs he was billed as "the son of Jack Elliott" (who was born Elliot Adnopoz 75 years ago) because Ramblin' Jack's narrative, folk style had so influenced... > Read more

Ramblin' Jack Elliott: Rake & Ramblin' Boy

Jason Collett; Idols of Exile (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

28 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

This Canadian singer-songwriter makes a big impression on this very likeable and diverse debut album: at times he sounds like a less irritating David Grey, elsewhere he reveals some beautiful pop sensibilities, sometimes there is a touch of blues from the guest guitarist, and damn if the guy doesn't sound like he's been a Verlaines fan at one point. Lots to like in other words, and also an... > Read more

Jason Collett: We All Lose One Another