Carol Young of The Greencards recommends Gerry Rafferty

Carol Young of The Greencards and Gerry Rafferty

Carol Young’s recommendation: “I can remember growing up in Australia hearing Gerry Rafferty’s mega-hit Baker Street on the radio – the song where the saxophone solos as much as Gerry sings. I didn’t fall in love with that song as much as I did his other commercially successful song, Right Down The Line. Then there was Gerry’s obsession with Bob Dylan which lead to the formation of Stealers Wheel – you can still hear their monster 1972 single release, Stuck In The Middle With You daily on the radio. His voice can often be heard with doubled vocals which I don’t normally like, but it suits his singing. It’s been said “his voice is reminiscent of the dim dawn after a dark night of the soul.” I connect with his lyrics but I think it’s more about the way he delivers the song that means so much to me. Gerry’s got this Irish/Scottish folk influence in his music and the production is normally low-fi. I was in Nashville, TN in 2011 when I heard of his death which resulted from years of alcohol abuse. That was a sad day, indeed. My favorite Gerry Rafferty album is City to City. Listen to Whatever’s Written In Your Heart for killer lyrics and vocal performance. This album never makes the Rolling Stone’s “Best Of” lists but in my humble opinion, it should.”

Carol Young About our guest author, Carol Young: Carol met Kym Warner when they were both members of Kasey Chamber’s backing band. Originally from Australia, the duo packed up their love for George Jones and Merle Haggard and headed to America where they formed The Greencards in 2002 and released their first album, Movin’ On in 2003. The band’s fresh take on bluegrass, affectionately labeled as ‘newgrass,’ won over spectators at their early Austin, TX shows and they soon found themselves opening for the likes of Robert Earl Keen and landing a record deal with Nashville’s Dualtone Records. Accolades washed over the band in 2004 as they were named in a list of top five nights of live music for the year in 2004 in the Houston Chronicle and they were named “Best New Band” at the Austin Music Awards. Grammy nominations and the honor of serving as the opening act for Bob Dylan (Wikipedia tells us that Warner was hoping to get some fatherly advice from Bob about music and performing…no dice) and Willie Nelson followed. The band most recently released Sweetheart of the Sun, which was produced by Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss and John Prine) and is grounded in Americana instrumentation, complete with mandolin and fiddle. But the music is moodier and the arrangements are far from run of the mill. Reaction to the album has been stellar as Buddy Miller has called it “simply stunning” and Rolling Stone says that the band is creating some of the finest Americana around.” Still not convinced? Well, the record just got a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album. Be sure to keep up with the band’s tour dates and join The Greencards’ social pages for the latest info.

Chris Porterfield of Field Report recommends The Weather Station

Chris Porterfield of Field Report  and Tamara Lindeman of The Weather Station

Chris Porterfield of Field Report and Tamara Lindeman of The Weather Station

Chris Porterfield’s artist recommendation: “There is a band out of Toronto called The Weather Station. It’s singer and songwriter Tamara Lindeman’s project. Lindeman is a brilliant songwriter, and her performance on this record has beauty and air and panache and grace and humanity and detachment and warmth, all at the same time. Her voice is aerial and effortless, but you get the sense that it got there from a lifetime of effort, both on her craft and living through the struggle of being alive.

Her clawhammer banjo playing or her open-tuned acoustic guitar are often the rhythmic foundation of a song, embellished by a
conscientious band of listeners playing pedal steel, fiddle, bass and drums. Other arrangements showcase her sensitive fluid playing, toying with tempo as a master interpreter of her own songbook, like Willie Nelson.”

Not familiar with The Weather Station? Chris suggests you start here: “The second Weather Station record, All Of It Was Mine, came out in 2011 and is absolutely stunning. I’ve been coming back to it since the day I first heard it. Listeners have compared her voice to a young Joni Mitchell, and I can hear it. But there was a naiveté to a lot of early Joni songs that is simply absent in The Weather Station. Lindeman’s narrators are extremely aware, and her ability to use words thoughtfully and beautifully and sparingly makes listening to All of It Was Mine a true revelation every single time.”

Chris PorterfieldAbout our guest author, Chris Porterfield: In 2003, Chris Porterfield was playing steel string guitar and collaborating a guy named Justin Vernon in a band called DeYarmond Edison in Eau Claire, WI. The story goes that he moved to Milwaukee to be with the love of his life (and eventual wife) while the rest of the band moved to Raleigh for a change of scenery. Chris simultaneously put music behind him and watched Vernon morph into the frontman of Bon Iver. You’d think the story would have a Pete Bestian ending, but you’d be wrong. Music kept nagging at Porterfield as he began to write and go to open mic nights. He put together a band (which he called Field Report), enlisted Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie) to engineer and used Vernon’s studio to record the self titled Field Report album that has won praise from Uncut, Paste and Q Magazine. Porterfield’s songs suck the listener in, submerging them down into dark details that are expertly counterbalanced by arrangements that flick at hope and spot-on vocals. Field Report’s story continues to curve to the positive as they recently secured an opening spot for the ever-great Emmylou Harris and WXPN in Pennsylvania calls their record “the best debut of the year.” Be sure to follow Field report, check their tour dates and more at the official Field Report website.

Kelsey Wilson of Wild Child recommends Holiday Mountain

Kelsey Wilson of Wild Child and Holiday Mountain

Kelsey Wilson of Wild Child (r) and Holiday Mountain

Kelsey Wilson’s recommendation: “The only music I listen to most of the time is music that was made at least thirty years ago. Nothing moves me more than the high priestess of soul, Nina Simone, or some good old-fashioned Stevie or Aretha. I grew up dancing in my living room to Curtis Mayfield, The Meters, and Sly and the Family Stone, and even now, funk, reggae and soul are still what wakes me up in the morning (literally – Sly’s, If You Want Me To Stay is my alarm clock).

That being said, within the last couple of weeks, I was introduced to a band from here in Austin called Holiday Mountain. Their album, Become Who You Are is the best thing I’ve heard in AGES. It’s the perfect combination of funk, reggae, soul, and a little something you’ve never heard before, that makes it impossible for you, or at least for me, not to wiggle around like an idiot.

The vocals are so perfect, kind of goofy, and listening to them you can’t help but smile and remember that music should always be made from love. You realize that the lyrics don’t really matter if the melody, rhythm or something else about the song makes you happy and makes you feel something when you hear it. Their lyrics are incredibly unique and uplifting, almost chant-like at times. Every once in a while the vocalist will just make silly noises that are so perfect it gives you chills.

I think as a musician, the most infectious thing you can do on stage is just smile and actually enjoy what you’re doing. People can hear it in your voice. That’s something I’m constantly reminding myself to do when I’m playing, and I’ve almost never seen any band do this more naturally or effortlessly than Holiday Mountain. Seeing them play reminds me to write and play and sing with passion, have FUN doing it (even if it doesn’t look cool), and remember that if you love making it, someone will probably love hearing it for that reason alone.”

Kelsey WilsonAbout our guest author, Kelsey Wilson: Yes, we jumped on the Wild Child bandwagon when we heard that the mighty Ben Kweller was slated to produce their sophomore album, The Runaround, but honestly, we should have been on top of this one sooner. Kelsey and Alexander Beggins are the co-leads of the band and they simply killed it with their debut album, Pillow Talk and the press responded appropriately. “By far one of the best albums to be released this year,” exclaimed KUT, Austin’s premiere radio station, a sentiment that was repeated by IndieShuffle and The Austin Statesman. If that praise doesn’t sway you, know that they also just cleaned up at the 2013 Austin Music Awards where they took home the awards for Best Indie Band and Best Folk Band. Simple arrangements, flawless harmonies and songs of heartbreak filled the first effort, but imagine injecting a fuller sound and Ben Kweller into the mix? Damn…the possibilities are endless. Be sure to keep up with the latest band news and tour dates at the Wild Child official band site

Serge Bielanko of Marah recommends Badly Drawn Boy

Serge Bielanko and Badly Drawn Boy

Serge Bielanko and Badly Drawn Boy

Serge Bielanko’s recommendation: “I’d say that Badly Drawn Boy and his record The Hour of Bewilderbeast move me more these days than much of anything else. I really can’t put my finger on it exactly, which is how it usually goes with the best stuff. It’s a combination of things, I think. The songs are beautiful and eloquent without even trying. And the music is this hodgepodge flea market of folk and pop, with magnificent clever beats and melodies. I can’t say enough about it really. There are a lot of songs on the record, something like 17 or 18, and that usually is a bad sign. Not here though. There isn’t any filler at all. None. Everything sort of flows together, songs ooze into other songs. I think it there might be magic spells hidden back behind the chords. Whenever I put it on, usually in the car, I see deer and rabbits and shit. Wild things come out of the forest. That doesn’t happen with most records, you know. I never had it happen when I played any other albums, so I quit listening to most of them.

I have never really admitted this to myself before, but I’m gonna do it here. Why not. I love this record maybe more than any record I have ever listened to. No lie. I find the whole damn thing inspiring and hopeful and pumped full of some kind of love that isn’t easy or free, but is worth it in the end. It isn’t a record to share with your friends while you sit around the kitchen table drinking beers and bullshitting. It’s more like a hundred dollar bill. You keep that shit in your wallet, it makes you happy/gives you a little peace of mind in a mad world. You don’t go flashing it around.

Does that make sense?

No?

Ok. Try this.

Badly Drawn Boy’s Hour of the Bewilderbeast is basically the soundtrack to meeting an old elf in a country pub and getting drunk with him out in the beer-garden, in the warm and pouring rain.”

Serge BielankoAbout our guest author, Serge Bielanko: The last we heard from Serge musically was in 2008 where he belted out stirring vocals (check Wilderness below) on Marah’s masterwork, Angels of Destruction!. He then moved out to Utah, became a Dad and showed us another side of his greatness through the incredibly well written dad-blog, Thunder Pie. (We here at Rocktorch.com also return to Serge’s great tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s right hand man, Terry Magovern (scroll down for Serge’s piece) every so often, just to remind ourselves that dreams really do freakin’ come true!). But now, Serge is back in the band, joining brother Dave and Christine Smith to set the music world straight and, to put it plainly, we can’t fuckin’ wait. Spy the rehearsal video below and catch one of the US shows in VA and PA before they go off and conquer Spain. Serge, welcome back!

MP3: Wilderness

Related links:

* Marah’s official site
* Dave Bielanko of Marah recommends Dexter Romweber
* Christine Smith of Marah recommends Waylon Jennings