Fifteen songs by Steve Earle’s inspiration, friend and mentor, Townes Van Zandt, self-recorded and produced, may sound like a labour of love that could go lots of different ways. While every song is handled respectfully, and none diverges too far from its original (bar perhaps Lungs, where Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello guests), Earle reveals that he is a great interpreter too. The album varies from Train A Comin’ indie folk to The Mountain bluegrass to classic Earle. As a whole, the album is not his strongest, but it does arrest the slight decline shown in his last two studio albums, where easy politics have replaced songwriting. Not a single song sounds out of place in 2009, and there is a strong sense that Earle’s own path to this record echoes Townes Van Zandt’s own personal journey – Townes isn’t the sound of hollow retread, but of some kind of spiritual renewal.
ACE rating 8/10
LA-based band Eulogies make the kind of music that isn’t immediately apparently great. On this second album, there are two perfect songs – This Fine Progression (like Grizzly Bear but
better) and Two Can Play (with Nikki from Silversun Pickups) – that are both improved when
played live and acoustic. Elsewhere, the songs progress nicely enough, but without stirring either passion or interest. However, there is the slightly uncomfortable thought that this is because you’re not listening well enough. If all you had heard was those two songs, you might have been of the view that the best new band of the year had arrived – the voice is vulnerably lovely, the playing tightly right and the feel is comfortably laid back. Unfortunately for the
album, it pads them out. If Peter Walker can manage to write more great tunes, you should keep tabs on Eulogies.
ACE rating 6/10
Port O’Brien’s All We Could Do Was Sing was a lovely, sea shanty-ish piece of hippy folk that celebrated something, some spiritual thing… Here, on Threadbare, the a
lbum has two parts – a continuation of that celebratory something, and a deeply sombre part, affected by the death of a loved one. There is a lot of spiritual vocal music around in folk these days, and we have, in musicians Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin, two proper, authentic folkies – he works on his father’s salmon boat every summer, and she works in a cannery, and then they get back together to make sea-inspired music. Where it works really well, such as on Sour Milk/ Salt Water, Love Me Through, or single My Will Is Good,
Threadbare is a lovely way to spend time – like a folkier Delta Spirit. Where it gets more downbeat, you’ll either need more patience or access to the Skip button.
ACE rating 7/10
Adult Contemporary Essentials rating
9-10 Essential purchase
7-8 Good, definite buy if you've liked this artist in the past
5-6 OK only, don't say I didn't warn you
3-4 Poor, even for this artist