It’s been yet another extraordinary year for the music industry and with ElectricGhost Music. Set against global economic disaster and political chicanery there was an increase of musicians using their lyrical skills to speak out against the corruption in Banks, Governments and Corporates. Many artist like Jackson Brown supported the global Occupy movement. In the industry itself a significant number of musicians chose the independent own label approach to promoting their work and the use of Bandcamp became an affordable way to put their music out there and deal direct with their fans. This independent attitude particularly favoured woman musicians who took full advantage of not being so dependent on the male dominated music industry.
We are very choosy about what we include in ElectricGhost and all the musicians in our 12 issues are special. We don’t get involved with awards or top ten lists. However there were certain artists and bands that particularly shone for us in 2012. What follows are some of our highlights.
In what was to be a major year for the solo career of Simone Felice we began by reviewing his first full length novel, Black Jesus. We said, “Felice’s work reflects the new wave of musicians who are making great literary work. The death of the American Dream is vividly played out in this brilliant novel.”
As a part of the centennial celebrations of Woody Guthrie’s birth the remarkable super group, New Multitudes, comprising Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Gob Iron, Uncle Tupelo), Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel), Anders Parker (Varnaline, Gob Iron) and Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket, Monsters of Folk) deliver an intimate interpretation of American icon and musical legend Woody Guthrie’s previously unrecorded lyrics.
New Multitudes Teaser
Richard Thompson live tour, supporting his album Dream Attic was a highlight from last year. A DVD, Live At Celtic Connections, was released which provided a special treat for those to catch the great man live.
Richard Thompson Wall Of Death Live 2011 DVD
Guitar driven album, The Secret, from the son, Vieux Farka Touré, of the legendary Ali Farka Touré. Regular writer for ElectricGhost Charley Dunlap said, “When I first saw Vieux, it was like seeing Albert King for the first time with his stinging guitar and emotive blues. That was amazing, but The Secret is so much more.” He concludes “Now he is poised to be the next family legend.”
All The Same
Deadman from Austin Texas use to be a duo. After going off our radar the returned as a Gospel infused Southern Rock sextet with the album Take Up Your Mat & Walk. Bandleader Steven Collins and band won a sizeable following both in Austin Texas and the UK and Europe for their Springsteen/Jayhawks influenced music. We said, “Together they make a joyful sound that is expanded with horns on tracks like the soulful We All Need Love. Another favourite is the Dylanesque This Old World’s Not Gonna Change. The five minute plus title track harks back to classic Band. Highly recommended.
This Old World’s Not Gonna Change
Babajack, roots music band from Malvern UK, released they’re third album Rooster that had a very live feel. We said, “Babajack have an authenticity and musical brilliance that many bands would die for. Rooster is devastating slice of magic from one of our finest roots artists.
Former drummer, writer and vocalist of Catskill Mountain band The Felice Brothers, and the creator of folk-soul outfit The Duke & The King, Simone Felice released his eagerly anticipated eponymous solo album. Largely self-produced with help from Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons), the debut album was recorded in deeply resonant places, settings that were as haunted in their rafters as Felice felt in his bones: a barn near his house in the woods, an old church in London, an abandoned high school building by the Hudson River. We said, “This album is a stunning masterpiece from start to finish confirming, beyond any doubt, that Simone Felice is a stone cold genius on a par with Dylan, Cohen & Young.”
New York Times
Father John Misty aka Josh Hillman left Fleet Foxes as their drummer and moved from Seattle to Laurel Canyon to focus and develop a solo career. This turned out to be an inspired change as the resulting album Fear Fun was an unqualified success and showed a whole new sir to this enigmatic artist. We said, “The result is a remarkably bold album that blends a dark, mysterious and yet conversely mischievous playful, almost Dionysian quality, with Tillman’s vocals sounding stronger and more confident than any previous solo outing. A true original who’s found himself.”
Hollywood Forever Cemetry
The Wilderness was the fourth and last in a series of thematically based albums released by The Cowboy Junkies titled The Nomad Series. This album evoked the classic sound of their most popular early albums, The Trinity Sessions, Caution Horses and The Black Eyed Man. The content is darker and more mature than before. We said, “This is a band at the height of their powers.”
Andrew Bird is a multitalented musician with an extraordinary work ethic. Break It Yourself was put together in a more traditional way, recorded to eight track at Bird’s barn in Western Illinois with a core group of drummer Martin Dosh, guitarist and keys man Jeremy Ylvisaker and Mike Lewis on tenor sax and bass. Bird followed this up later in the year with a companion piece Hands of Glory. In our review of Break It Yourself we said, “The result is a stunning genre defying set of music and song that dazzles and amazes. Absolutely essential listening.”
Eyesoneye (From Here’s What Happened)
The Imagined Village are a ten piece folk roots world music band who produce a mix of traditional and contemporary material that blends English folk, Indian music and electronica into a rich musical stew. Their album Bending The Dark arose out of adversity and is a testament to pulling together turning the situation around and coming out of the darkness stronger and more confident. We said, “A totally unique band create a stunning masterpiece.”
Bending The Dark EPK
Smoke Fairies, a home counties duo, came back this year with an album, Blood Speaks, that was tougher and fiercer that their shy and innocent debut. The songs and performances combine a fragility with a humid sensuality and spectral melodies. We said, “This is the sound of two women who have popped their musical cherries. And the journey continues.”
The Three Of Us
Howe Gelb is a totally unique musician. Apart from his wildly eclectic solo work there is his band Giant Sand. This year, with the release of Tuscon billed as a ‘country rock opera’, it expanded With guest soul, jazz and mariachi singers, mariachi and jazz trumpets, a string section, as well as an augmented regular Giant Sand crew. Our reviewer, Charley Dunlap, said, “The album probes solidly into all those genres and more, an uninterrupted stream of truly excellent songs, with not a single errant flight of fancy. Who knew Mozart lived in Arizona?”
Thin Line Man
Patti Smith released her eleventh studio album, Banga, her fist since tramping’ in 2004. It featured guests include Tom Verlaine, Jack Petruzzelli, Smith’s son Jackson and daughter Jesse Smith. The version we received was encased in a beautiful book with Smith’s photography and lyrics. We said, “This album is full of jewels. Her visionary poetic skills address spiritual, social and environmental issues with passion and power.”
After The Gold Rush
The Blood Choir, the Bath/Bristol band started as a duo by Rob Maddicott and Joe Mountain made some big changes this year. They added bass player Rod Brakes and drummer Sam Selby, played a series of stunning live shows (including this year at The Fleece, Bristol and Moles, Bath) supporting Arbouretum and their sound evolved into the darker and heavier feel of stoner psych rock. We said, “The songs, whilst familiar to this reviewer are totally transformed on this album. ElectricGhost favourites with a great future ahead.”
Dawes, the Los Angeles quartet, were one of several inspired signings by our favourite label Loose Music. They are a group of two brothers, Taylor on guitar and lead vocals and Griffin Goldsmith on drums, joined by two long-time friends, Wylie Gelber on bass and Tay Strathairn on the keys. We loved their incredible live performance as well as prequel to 2011’s Nothing Is Wrong, North Hills.
Peace In The Valley
Wussy, acclaimed Cincinnati four-piece rock and roll band released their third album. Chuck Cleaver, the tattooed, bearded, barrel-chested frontman of the Cincinnati band Ass Ponys suffers from stage fright and asked his equally tattooed girlfriend Lisa Walker to join him for a series of solo shows. The musical chemistry sizzled and in early 2000 they formed Wussy. We said, “A band to totally fall in love with. Highly recommended.”
Wussy Live On KEXP Waiting Room, Pulverized, Grand Champion Steer,Pizza King, Little Miami
Moulettes are a unique eight piece folk rock ensemble with an epic orchestral feel. Their album The Bear’s Revenge was a totally bewitching and potent stew of celestial harmonies, haunting harmonies, woodwind weirdness, swirling strings and compulsive driving rhythmic wildness. They wilfully blended folk, classical, prog-rock into a unique and highly engaging presence. We said, “A world where tethered circus bears wreak gory revenge; and strange woodland creatures dance spiky jigs. Mad magical and marvellous.”
Some Who You Love
Ides Of Gemini are a US stoner psych rock trio. Constantinople was their full length debut. The band produce a reverb-soaked choir of etherial ghosts floating over scratchy guitars and narcoleptic spaghetti western soundscapes.
Martyrium Of The Hippolyt
The Gaslight Anthem are a New Jersey rock quartet. Frontman Brian Fallon was originally inspired by raw energy of The Clash and describes the band’s music as “Tom Petty songs [being] played by Pearl Jam”. Handwritten is perhaps their most compelling album to date. They fuse ’60’s soul, ’70’s stadium rock, ’80’s hardcore and ’90’s grunge into a breakneck ride of pure adrenalin fuelled rock. We said, “There is an incredible raw, live-off-the-floor feel to Handwritten. They rock the truth!”
Chains Of Love, Vancouver based rock soul duo released their debut album Strange Grey Days. Sonically it fuses ‘wall of sound’ meets Motown boogie with rock. Some songs experiment with noisier guitar textures, while others venture into more psychedelic, darker territory. All of this hangs off Nathalie Pizzaro and Rebecca Marie Law Gray’s haunting vocals with catchy hooks and rousing sock-hop harmonies. We said, “This is a wildly intoxicating mix that will hook you in and not let go. Destined for great things.”
He’s Leaving With Me
And now for something completely different. Utterly bonkers Oklahoman Psych Stoner quintet, The Flaming Lips, collaborated with musician friends to devastating effect and released The Flamings Lips & Heady Fwends. In between one-off shows scattered around the world over the past several months The Flaming Lips still found time to record a series of unique and experimental sessions for an album featuring a diverse cross-section of heavy friends from every corner of the musical spectrum. We said, “One of the most creative bands on the planet unleash a potent case for the derangement of the senses.”
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Bob Dylan returned with his glorious and menacing 35th album, Tempest. His voice is like a cigar/whisky soaked Tom Waits and for me deeply satisfying as I never cared for his ‘clean’ Bing Crosby croon. The voice really suits the heavily blues orientated material on the album. We said, “A unconditional masterpiece from a stone cold genius.”
Half a decade after their last album release, Two Gallants were back with The Bloom & The Blight. An they were back with a ferocity that is breathtaking. A mix of incendiary rock and gentle folk blues. We said, “Back with a glorious vengeance, Bloom & Blight has album of the year stamped all over it.”
My Love Won’t Wait
Heritage Blues Orchestra are a perfect synthesis of old and new, a fresh return to the spectrum of the rich African-American music tradition.They released the excellent And Still I Rise. Our reviewer Charley Dunlap said. “The core of this six person aggregation is two elder statesmen steeped in the traditions of their culture, guitarist-singer Junior Mack and blues multi-instrumentalist Bill Sims Jr, and Sims’ daughter, R&B-Gospel singer Chaney Sims. Add to this the contributions of two Frenchman, harmonica master Vincent Bucher and saxophonist-arranger Bruno Wilhelm, and you have a potent combination.”
Bellowhead were back with a vengeance, the eleven piece folk ensemble take no prisoners. Festival favourites and brilliant live in concert, Broadside was packed with what we love. They mix a unique blend of folk, jazz, drama, theatre instrumental virtuosity, verve, humour and sheer blind cheek that has taken the roots scene by storm. We said, “They have a musical fire power that hits you like a hurricane. Outstanding.”
10,000 Miles Away
Show Of Hands, the 20 year musical partnership of Steve Knightley and Phil Beer is celebrated by an album, Wake Of The Union, that weaves together both the English and American Roots that has inspired their musical journey. We said, “Just when you think they can’t get any better, they floor you. God I love this band so much! An album of musical and lyrical brilliance. Buy it!”
Sixteenth studio album, Rooster Rag, from the legendary California based sextet, Little Feat, who are one of rock n’ roll’s best live bands ever. Southern rock, blues, jazz fusion and some Cajun funk thrown in it all makes for a rich musical stew. Despite having lost both the extraordinary guitarist/vocalist Lowell George and more recently drummer/vocalist Richie Hayward they have not only survived but thrived, and continuing to produce new and vital music. We said, “A classic Feat album with all the musical dexterity we love.”
Neil Young & Crazy Horse. The Horse are back, after ten years, and Young is in reflective mood with their second album, Psychedelic Pill, this year. Coming in at nearly 90 minutes this is a long and sprawling double album of just nine tracks. Clearly influenced by his autobiography Waging Heavy Peace the album is full of fond memories and reminders of promises broken and ideals betrayed. Sonically it moves between sweet CSNY harmonies and raging garage rock. We said, “With a potency unmatched by musicians half his age Young has given us a blinder of an album. Rock ‘n Roll will never die.”
Born In Ontario
Joshua James. Outstanding third album, From The Top Of Willamette Mountain, from the incredibly talented US independent singer songwriter. The name Willamette Mountain came to him in a dream symbolizing his Utah home, where he lives a simple life with his wife on a small farm connecting with nature away, his utopia. Thanks to Sue Taylor who put us on to this magical artist and reviewed the album.
Queen Of The City
Mary Gauthier the acclaimed Nashville songwriter released a stunning live album, Live At Blue Rock. Recorded with a small band at the very highest level at the incredible Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio just outside of Austin, Texas. The album contains songs, story songs and tales that speak to the heart of the human condition. We said, “This is an emotional record from an artist at the top for her game.”
We’ll here we are at the end of an astonishing year in which we gained a great American Correspondent in Sue Taylor from Pennington New Jersey and have just launched out the micro- business ElectricGhost Live Music (see our EG60 for more details). Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and EG60 will be mailed out. Enjoy and see you on the other side.