Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged Americana


Mark Lanegan—hey, I know that name. You sure do. Mark Lanegan fronted Screaming Trees, one of the better bands to come out of the early '90s Seattle grunge scene. They never gained the attention or commercial success of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, or Nirvana, and their minor success was propelled mostly by “Nearly Lost You,” a track from the soundtrack for how-very-zeitgeisty film Singles. After grunge was discarded in favor of nu-metal, gangsta rap, boy bands, and factory pop, Mark Lanegan didn't remain with his old band churning out increasingly bad records or touring on nostalgia value.

Acoustic Project

When I moved to Virginia over four years ago, I didn’t know what folk music was. Growing up in Portland Oregon, I was raised on the quickly growing West Coast indie rock scene. But sometime in my teenage years I started finding artists like Sparklehorse, Nickel Creek, Laura Gibson, and Blitzen Trapper and I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t know then what it was about these different artists’ sounds that made my mouth water, but there was something they had in common, something earthy, something gritty, that I absolutely loved. And when I arrived in Virginia, it finally dawned on me.

Oh, Hear the Wind Blow

The West Coast, indie feel to the Chapin Sister’s album Oh, Hear the Wind Blow could easily have made it my pick for this year’s perfect summer album. Sadly, it’s September as I write this, and soon flip-flops will make way for boots. However, I suggest you squeeze the last rays out of summer with this album. The Sisters are nieces of musician Harry Chapin and the daughters of Tom Chapin.


Before reviewing the album, I have to admit, Ani Difranco and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who are both major contributors to the project, definitely rake up the most counts on my iTunes top played lists. Bias. That said however, Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera Hadestown is a masterful album in its own right, originally beginning in 2006 as a live show that toured New England with a cast of twenty-two performers.

Live in Louisville

“Well you have it, you love it, now it’s your turn to shove it…I don’t want to play house anymore,” sings Carrie Rodriguez on her newly released live compilation album, Live in Louisville. Her soulful voice, accompanied by rousing fiddles, makes her point with grace and force.

Death of the Sun

Former singer/songwriter of the Metallic Falcons (with CocoRosie's Sierra Cassady), Matteah Baim branched out on her own not long ago and has come forth with her debut solo album, which includes collaborations with some of today’s biggest names in hipster folk, including Devendra Banhart and 90 Day Men’s Rob Lowe. While the musical composition stands out to me more than Baim’s crackling voice, her cover of the African-American spiritual, "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore (Michael Row)," is a delightful surprise halfway through the disc.


As a former trailer inhabitant myself, I was quite curious to see how Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours’ latest album, Trailercana, would move me. While I was not immediately turned off as Antsy and his band of rockabilly misfits cranked out twangy opener “Living in Aluminum” and other saloony sing-alongs, Trailercana isn’t an album I’d listen to more than once. Not to say Antsy and the Trailer Park Troubadours don’t do what they do well.

Songs From Under the Sink

Mischief Brew describes the 14-track album Songs From Under the Sink as a “collection of anthems, ballads, marches, love songs, hate songs, and lullabies” written over five years, from 1997 to 2002. It is a “lost LP,” resurrected or “finally brought up from the cellar-or, from under the sink.” These descriptors help identify this album as being a non-identifiable hodge-podge of sorts, with a variety of distinct sounds. Some are “hot and spicy, some are just as fresh as the day they were written, and others may have passed their expiration date a bit.

Smash the Windows

I have truly never heard anything like Mischief Brew. Much of their music pairs such disparate elements as a heavy-metal bassline and a twangy mandolin, and a study of the lyrics reveals a similar discord: an aggressive expression of anti-establishment anger, under which lies a genuine desire to celebrate freedom and individuality. Their music feels at once like a barroom brawl and an intelligent, textured cultural critique. While Smash the Windows incorporates solid musicianship and strong production, the vocals miss their mark.

The Essential Mercury Rev: Stillness Breathes (1991-2006)

When groups like Mercury Rev come to mind, one cannot deny that a band with such a rich discography and history has had obvious influence on other groups that emerged from their sound. The songs on The Essential Mercury Rev vary from lo-fi to jazz, at times, and the mood meanders from melancholy to whimsical from song to song. Upon listening to the double-disc set, it is apparent that Mercury Rev made way for more modern bands like Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins.


Here is one golden child in the blended world of rock, roots and Americana; with his sometimes ranting but passion-filled album North, Tim Emmerick & Cold Front County do it up on their debut.