There should be a myth around David Thomas Broughton. There should be mystique. Something sinister. Darkness that spirals around his heart and mind. There could be a man with serious troubles, the kind of man who asks the same questions and makes the same statements over and over, to no one in particular; a man who “struggles with the nightshade in [his] blood.”


Perhaps that there is no such darkness or myth surrounding David Thomas Broughton is paradoxically confounding and relieving. In fact, he seems downright boringly normal. He’s not losing his mind, he’s not a hermit, he’s not some mystic who released one record and disappeared from the historical record – he’s a singer/songwriter from Leeds. Even the truly strangest part of his story (that he has lived, on-and-off, in North Korea for a few years) is calmly explained (NGO work). But what unfolds over the forty minutes of The Complete Guide To Insufficiency, his 2004 debut LP, is no less than a bizarre masterpiece of… what? Folk? Hymns? Humor? Depression? Cult?

The constant, driving force behind the record is Broughton throwing his guitar and his voice into a loop pedal machine. The feeling therein is like being tugged forward slightly harder and faster than you are comfortable with. With his voice, Broughton is capable of an odd depth and a kind of jolting sweetness; I can only describe it as a baritone falsetto. Particular words, especially r’s, roll in a hauntingly formal tone. His acoustic guitar folds over itself with layer upon layer of never-perfect strums. The loop machine makes it perfect by simply repeating it, what’s done once by accident is by plan when done again.

The album’s middle track, “Unmarked Grave,” is led into by two minutes of droning and an ever increasing echo of space that is the end of “Execution.” When at last its calming first strums emerge, we’ve seemingly escaped the dark, dark places that Broughton would NOT take his love, listed in the preceding track (an execution for one, and also, “a live sex show”).  But “Unmarked Grave” is not calming. It is the eternal lament of a soldier cut down young in life and then frozen in time. Over delightful pickings that sit somewhere between wedding-appropriate and “I’m getting good at my lessons,” the deceased is blunt, hurt as much in death as by death. “My body rots while she is weeping/and I remain forever sleeping/resting my bones from the daily chores/rest my bones forever more.” Five minutes in, his voice becomes a distorted chorus, the soldier telling himself the same things repeatedly; his last thoughts are the ones that must remain with him forever. A church bell rings in the background and is swept up in the loop machine – time is literally repeating itself. It’s a love song in a ghostly Shakespearian way.

Broughton has only a small kit of tools at his disposal, but the range of styles he pseudo-plays – from drone to Spaghetti-Western to classical – is immense. It’s hard to pin just what this sounds like. It’s Mayo Thompson or Bonnie Prince Billy. It’s freak-folk or Neo-folk. It’s terribly sad and terribly sly. It’s mundane and emotionless. It all ends with a 5-minute mantra-like chant of “the ever rotating sky” while his strums fall over themselves, his hand having gone limp on a single one, to be captured eternally in the loop machine. The last minute sounds like a recording error without context and the perfect capstone within.

I’ve seen Broughton twice – once in New York and once in Austin, far away from the church in Leeds where Guide was recorded. But in any setting, he commands a room. Songs seem to be played in spite of themselves: distracted by an odd inflection in his own voice or an accidentally sexy pose, Broughton will repeat it. Or mock it. A candle on the far side of the room is, to his eye, out of position – suddenly, all the candles are wrong. I watched in odd horror as Broughton sang increasingly pained yet beautiful words and moans, with his loop machine maybe a few notches too loud for comfort, while rearranging every candle in an entire club. And then he simply hit “Stop” on his loop machine and started a new song. Not once was there a knowing glance, a wink or “thank you.”  Broughton doesn’t so much perform “songs” as he touches on that topic again, or plays that riff again, to see how they sound this time. It’s equally satisfying to know that he could never play a song the same way twice and that he’d probably never try anyway.

It has been ten years since The Complete Guide to Insufficiency first appeared. In that time “folk” music has dipped itself into the mainstream, first as the kind of rockin’ revival of many popular indie bands of the mid-00’s and reaching critical mass with artists like Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons. Guide is and was too strange and too sad-sounding to reach that kind of critical success. But its joy is that it is not tied to a period or particular movement. Those loops make it technically modern, its topics make it feel anything but. It dances along the edge of timelessness, looks down along the cliff below, turns around and marches back over the expanse. There’s so much else to explore. words / b kramer

David Thomas Broughton :: Execution
David Thomas Broughton :: Unmarked Grave

kbSunset’s closer to eight o’clock now and it’s muggier every damn day. Pretty soon it will be too hot in the house to think about anything other than the katydids bellowing outside the bedroom window. Kingsley Bloom’s “Hymn & Hawberry” is music for when the box fan dies. Brantley Jones’ hoarse tenor curls effortlessly with Ruby Kendrick’s youthful harmony. Imagine Skip Spence singing alongside Melanie. Together their voices breeze through the nearly fossilized summer air pressed against the screened-in front porch. Guitars rumble and clap. A late-night thunderstorm is on the move. Then the bottom falls out and the vocals double back off the kudzu-covered Oaks lining the sidewalk and you forget about the temperature for a while. Kingsley Bloom’s Youtometoyou EP is out now and the rumor is that Jones also has a solo LP in the works for No Quarter Records.  Stay dialed.

Kingsley Bloom :: Hymn & Hawberry

In the hands of David T. Walker, “Lay Lady Lay,” a cornerstone of Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, slides into a jazzy, languid, space residing somewhere just shy of early 70s porn groove and after-midnight lounge. I use neither descriptor as pejorative. Found on the Tulsa-born session guitarists 1970 solo joint, Plum Happy, the track, while devoid of the original’s intent, works on the same level as contemporary George Benson’s Other Side of Abbey Road. Vinyl rip, below.

David T. Walker :: Lay Lady Lay

are we there“You told me the day / that you show me your face / we’d be in trouble for a long time. / I can’t wait / ’til we’re afraid / of nothing.” This is how Sharon Van Etten opens her fourth album – with people who are afraid of revealing themselves. When Van Etten sings later in the song that her counterpart responds to her with a meek “wait shit out,” she replies “you’re a little late. / I need you / to be afraid of nothing.”

It’s a brilliant set of lines. On the one hand, Van Etten seems to chastise. On the other, she seems dependent. Does she need them to be afraid of nothing – like her – or does she need them to be that way because she isn’t? And if the latter, is it okay to get angry and criticize them for not being something that we fail to be as well? It sets a tone that works itself into nearly every moment across Are We There‘s 43 minutes. Look at the title itself – a question, with no question mark. When everything is questionable – even whether questions themselves exist – how easy is it to work through what you see?

For anyone who has followed Van Etten’s career, or even just read Amanda Petrusich’s recent piece on her for Pitchfork, it’s hard not to look for elements of her past experiences in an abusive relationship. Songwriters are often tasked with creating universal themes out of the specific, and Van Etten bears that burden brilliantly. When she sings “I see your backhand again” in “Our Love,” it can be hard not to assume what she’s referring to. But by the song’s second verse, when she talks about someone giving her an escape from a personal nadir, only to be unsure what she has discovered in the process, the song has radiated out into countless personal experiences for us, the listener — something that happens again and again throughout course of the album.

In terms of production, Van Etten’s compositions are tremendous on this album. Bringing in producer Stewart Lerman, who has worked on the majority of both Loudon Wainwright III and Antony and the Johnsons’ recordings over the last decade, her songs emerge in ways she has not previously explored. The aforementioned “Our Love” is the album’s unquestioned pop highlight with its silken, minimal guitar lines filtering Van Etten through something distantly akin to the majestic pop of Sade. “Tarifa” deftly employs horns and tidal-rhythm guitars to replicate the day in question at the titular Spanish coastal town. And the dominating “Your Love Is Killing Me” – perhaps the album’s centerpiece, despite being only the third track – uses its distant, martial timpani and snares to drive the song towards Van Etten’s title declaration. So much of Are We There has this massive feel – even the comparatively sparse closer, “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” – a song that feels much larger than the sum of its parts.

With Are We There, Van Etten stands on the verge of a larger commercial breakthrough. A lyrically challenging record full of sharp thorns and turns, it’s also her most engagingly produced album yet – one whose results demand a much larger place in the spotlight. words / j neas

Sharon Van Etten :: Every Time The Sun Comes Up

JDD album coverOn the back of Jerry David DeCicca’s Understanding Land, his first solo record after fronting folk combo The Black Swans for a decade, the songwriter describes a hike with Massachusetts naturalist Michael Metivier. While walking, Metivier explained the way trees are ripped from the ground during storms, and the way the holes left behind foster new plant life. The idea stuck with DeCicca, informing the songs he wrote following a tour of Portugal and Spain. Staying at a friend’s flat in London, he hung mics from the clothesline and birdcage in her living room and began sorting through a few years’ worth of notebooks. Those resulting songs became the foundation of Understanding Land an album centered around the idea of “rebirth.”

“I feel like it’s a pretty positive record,” DeCicca says from New Braunfels, Texas. Following a period of storms, which included the loss of Swans bandmate Noel Sayre, DeCicca took comfort in the idea of seasons and growth.

The album’s closing song, the beatific “Bloom Again,” punctuates the LP’s hopefulness, “So I stood like a tree/though nature’s bitter schemes/and I waited my turn/to bloom again.” The song was inspired by the Roy Orbison documentary The Big O in Britain, which DeCicca watched in London.

“He had that line ‘I just stood like a tree, and I just bloomed again,’” DeCicca says of Orbison’s reflection on the renewed interest in his music. “He’d gone through these seasons, but he hadn’t really changed, he just waited for it to be his time again. You don’t need to do anything. The world is going to change and grow around you, but nature is going to take its course.”

DeCicca intended the tracks recorded in London to be demos, but they quickly took on a life beyond his plans. Passed on to bass player Andy Hammil, it became apparent that the loose nature of the recordings had potential. “It just kind of grew from there,” DeCicca says. Hammil and DeCicca added drums, vibes, and strings. “Before I knew it, I started thinking of this as a ‘record’.” Contributions from DeCicca’s allies Will “Bonnie Prince Billy” Oldham, Kelly Deal, and Spooner Oldham followed, fleshing out DeCicca’s bare bones recordings.

continue reading after the jump. . .

LITA116_Highres_Cover-675x675It’s a rare thing when a sequel matches the intensity of the original. But like Gator to White Lightning, Light in the Attic’s newly announced Country Funk Volume II 1967-1974 not only equals the grit and stride of the label’s 2012 collection, it actually expands and broadens the genre’s definitions. In our 2012 Year in Review, we stated that the artists featured on the introductory installment took “groovy pleasure in defying record company sanctioned categorization, relishing in a sticky, smoky, purely American cross-pollination and freedom,” and the motley crew gathered for this edition created songs no less ambitious. There’s no shortage of legends here — Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Jackie DeShannon, JJ Cale, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Bobby Darin all make appearances — but there’s lesser-knowns too, like Donnie Fritts, Jim Ford, Bill Wilson, and Willis Alan Ramsey, whose nimble-footed jam “Northeast Texas Women” is drawn from his 1972 self-titled release on Leon Russell’s Shelter Records, an album so good he still hasn’t released a follow up. Compiled by AD compatriot Zach Cowie AKA Turquoise Wisdom with LITA men Matt Sullivan and Patrick McCarthy, with notes by Jessica Hundley and art by Jess Rotter, Country Funk II arrives in July 9th. words / j woodbury

Willis Alan Ramsey :: Northeast Texas Women


The following mix draws from New Orleans Rhythm & Blues to Texan Outlaw Country — stirring up a soulful gumbo of outtakes, b-sides and early recordings.  And of course, Hag’s Bakersfield.

In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad) – A Medley

Playlist after the jump…


Happy birthday to your hero and mine, the forever inscrutable Bob Dylan. For more than five decades, he’s brilliantly confounded expectations and confused audiences in an extremely entertaining manner. And that seems to have been his intention all along, judging from this firecracker of a song, recorded way back in 1962 during the sessions for his sophomore LP, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. He’s addressing a ladyfriend, but he may as well be talking to his public:

Well, when I’m dead
No more good times will I crave
When I’m dead
No more good times will I crave
You can stand and shout hero
All over my lonesome grave

Dylan let this one lie for several years (an alternate demo showed up on the Wittmark Bootleg Series), until, bizarrely, he opened with it on the first show of his blockbuster tour with The Band in 1974. The crowd that night was undoubtedly confounded and confused. words / t wilcox

Bob Dylan :: Hero Blues

AFW Sidibe ThumbOur weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST. Ghost Capital guests this week sourcing tracks from the new AD/GC mix, African Women Sing.

SIRIUS 342: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Famous L. Renfroe – Introduction ++ Mariem Salec (Sahrawi, West Sahara) – What Am I Longing For? ++ Les Amazones de Guinee – Soungouroun Baya ++ Sophia Ben & The Eagles Lupopo (Kenya) – See Serere ++ Mahely Ba (Côte d’Ivoire) – Asiadji ++ Dark City Sisters (South Africa) – Langa More ++ Fatima Haryan (Somalia) – Calolyow ++ Jeri-Jeri (Senegal) – Xale (with Mbene Diatta Seck) ++ Ramata Diakité (Burkina Faso) – Djandjo ++ Hasna El Becharia (Algeria) – Koul Chi Al Oualidine ++ Raiz di Djaforgo (Cape Verde) – Brial ++ Dorothy Masuka (South Africa) – Unamanga ++ Hawa Daisy Moore (Liberia/USA) – Ja Na Ka ++ Kawaliwa & Mary w. the AGS Boys (Uganda) – Fumbria Abaana ++ M’Pongo Love w/ Orch. Les Ya Toupas (DRC) – Kapwepwe ++ Tuareg Girl – Ivory Coast ++ Hirute Bekele (Ethiopia) – Track 3 (edit) ++ Evi-Edna Ogholi (Nigeria) – Obaro ++ Aminata Wassidjé Traoré (Mali) – Tamala ++ Alsarah & The Nubatones (Sudan/USA) – Habibi Taal ++ Nahawa Doumbia (Mali) – Lelale (DJ Diaki Remix) ++ Bechita Ali (Eritrea) – Bshrat ++ Ayaan Warsame (Somalia) – Kampala Adaa i Baday ++ Amira Deng (South Sudan) – Weik Jien ++ Malika (Bajuni, Somalia) – The Captain Knows (Nahodha Mwenye Elimo) ++ Cwaizile Shandu (Zulu, South Africa) – Emalomeni ++ Christy Azuma, Uppers International (Ghana) – Naam ++ Ester John, Fadhili William, Ben Nicholar, Fundi Kondi (Kenya) – Mwanamali Wa Maridadi ++ Tambours Du Burundi – Akazehe ++ Marie Kitoko (DRC) – Ya Bisu Se Malembe ++ Dalom Kids (South Africa) – Vummelanani ++ Nancy Agag (Sudan) – God Protect You

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.