Staff Picks: Music

Valerie June

Every once in a while I come across a musician or an album that makes me stop and really listen. Valerie June is just one of those musicians and her album Pushin’ Against the Stone is just one of those albums. Her music is bluesy and folky, with soul and funk, and her voice is the perfect conduit to blend all those styles together. She’s also a great storyteller, and I find listening to her music evokes a similar atmosphere to many of my favorite southern gothic writers (think Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor or Toni Morrison). This was love at first listen for me.

 You can find a copy of Pushin’ Against the Stone both in our CD collection and on our streaming music service Hoopla


Most Messed Up in the Best Possible Way

“We’ve been doing this thing longer than you’ve been alive, propelled by some mysterious drive,” is the first couple lines of “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” the first track from the Old 97’s newest record Most Messed Up. Celebrating their 20th year as a band, the Old 97’s have released one of the best records of 2014. Fans of Americana, punk (Tommy Stinson from The Replacements plays on a few tracks), and alt-country will be happy to discover that the boys from Texas have messed those genre up into a pure raucous ride. Songs like “Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On” and “Wasted” are anthems to the hard life of a band strumming hard through two decades of music. “Guadalajara” and “The Ex of All You See” tell the torrid tales of love and loss on the road. After the final song has ended you will have felt like you have listened to a musical biography of a most messed up, but amazing band. In fact, the chorus of the lead track sums the entire record nicely, “Rock and Roll’s been very very good to me, the open road’s the only place I wanna be.”

Music

Most Messed Up
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Liked That, Try This No. 2

Looking for artists similar to those you already know about and enjoy? Well, we’ll try to make suggestions that expand your musical listening experience. Don't forget, you can access music from KPL through compact discs, free MP3 downloads (Freegal) and internet streamed albums via Hoopla.  

• Liked Beach House, try Wye Oak
• Liked Steve Earle, try David Allan Cole
• Liked Pavement, try Parquet Courts
• Liked Solange, try Kelis
• Liked Bruno Mars, try Fitz and the Tantrums
• Liked early Pink Floyd, try Tame Impala
• Liked Lorde, try Sharon Van Etten

Music

Shriek
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Nikki Lane: Now on Hoopla

If you dig the music of The Black Keys, Caitlin Rose, The Ronettes, Wanda Jackson, and She and Him, head on over to our free streaming service called Hoopla and borrow the newest album from Nikki Lane, a new singer from Nashville whose songs strike a nice balance between vintage country and girl group pop. Produced by Dan Auerbach (guitarist from The Black Keys) All or Nothin’ will be here in compact disc format soon but if you can’t wait, stream it from Hoopla now for free.

Music

All or Nothin'
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Roy Harper: Man & Myth

I was so very pleased to find a copy of Roy Harper’s latest, Man & Myth, among the new releases in the library’s Music collection. Roy has been a favorite of mine since the 1970s and his work is always full of heartfelt imagination and creative surprise.

Who is Roy Harper? I saw a review once that described him as “the consummate stoned folk poet,” but that was a long time ago. More accurately, Roy is an introspective English singer songwriter, who for decades has lurked in the midst of the British music scene (sort of an Irish Neil Young in a way), swapping licks with his friends (many of whom just happen to be among the biggest names in the business), while himself seemingly happy to remain a folk hero in the shadows of relative obscurity, especially on this side of “the pond.”

So about these friends… Roy has worked for years with his good friend Jimmy Page (who gave “Hats Off” to Roy on the third Led Zeppelin album), and countless others who have assisted him along the way (and vice versa); his longtime friend David Gilmour (Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” was sung by Roy), Pete Townshend (who plays on Man & Myth), the late Ronnie Lane and Keith Moon (both of whom appeared with Roy at a special Valentine’s Day concert, gosh, 40 years ago today), and others.

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Roy’s music is not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination. His songs often require work; they make you think, which at times perhaps makes him another candidate for that “artists’ artist” category. Still, the vast majority of Harper’s work is quite approachable and indeed very beautiful. In 2013, Roy received a prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for having made “an enormous and lasting contribution to folk music over a sustained number of years.”

And about the album… Man & Myth, Roy’s 22nd studio album and his first in 13 years (not taking into account a dozen or so live recordings and several compilations), finds him in familiar territory, reflecting on life, love, loss and living (Roy is 72 now). “I thought I had retired...,” he stated in a press interview, “...I was inspired to write again around 2009, by many of the younger generation finding me and asking, who are you?” Uncut called the songs on Man & Myth “poignant contemplations on time and its passing, friendship, love, betrayal, memory.” Another reviewer wrote, “...this isn’t a ‘return to form’. It’s business as brilliant [as] usual.”

Man & Myth has been included on several “Best Of 2013” lists, including MOJO and UNCUT (and my own, of course), and the album has earned several top reviews by the European music press. Four tracks on the album were recorded (interestingly enough) in Laurel Canyon near Los Angeles (Roy seldom appears stateside), and the others were done back on home turf in County Cork, Ireland. The latter tracks are among my favorites, especially “Heaven Is Here” > “Exile,” a 23 minute epic exploration based in Greek mythology.

“January Man”

Here’s a sample from Man & Myth...

 

New to Roy? If you like acoustic stuff, I highly recommend that you track down a copy of Stormcock, his 1971 acoustic opus with Jimmy Page (billed as “S. Flavius Mercurius”), which is still viewed as one of his best efforts. Or if a full band is more to your liking, try The Unknown Soldier (1980)—perhaps Roy’s most “commercial” effort to date, and Once (1990), both of which feature David Gilmour and Kate Bush.

“Girl from the North Country”

Here’s Roy Harper performing a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” recorded by BBC4 on September 26th, 2005, at the “Talkin’ Bob Dylan Blues: A Bob Dylan Tribute Concert” in London.

 

And if you’re still with me, here’s a treat… some recently discovered footage of Roy performing live in the studio about 1969 or 1970…. (there are five tracks in all). Enjoy!

 

Music

Roy Harper: Man & Myth
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Liked That, Try This (No. 1)

Looking for artists similar to those you already know about and enjoy? Well, we’ll try to make suggestions that expand your musical listening experience by connecting like-sounding artists together.

• Liked Jackson Browne, try Dawes 
• Liked The Avett Brothers, try The Felice Brothers
• Liked Neko Case, try Laura Marling
• Liked Miles Davis, try Chet Baker
• Liked MGMT, try The Flaming Lips
• Liked The Cocteau Twins, try Beach House
• Liked New Order, try The Knife
• Liked Bob Marley, try Peter Tosh
• Liked Billie Holiday, try Diane Krall
• Liked The White Stripes, try Wanda Jackson 
• Liked Wilco, try Fleet Foxes
• Liked Pink, try Robyn
• Liked Bon Iver, try Elliott Smith
• Liked Mumford and Sons, try The Head and the Heart
• Liked Frank Sinatra, try Kurt Elling

Music

the head and the heart
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