hiredOpening and closing out the third installment of Maison Dufrene are two slow-paced, brooding, psychedelic Americana tunes that may have left you scrapping for a source. If that is indeed the case, hopefully the following will clear things up.

Put frankly, Bruce Langhorne is a genius. Not only is he the namesake for Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” he also played his way around the Greenwich Village folk scene, worked with friends to compose the soundtrack to Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and single-handedly composed every element of the epic soundtrack to Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand.

Fonda’s classically forgotten anti-western – turned rediscovered cult masterpiece – was originally motivated by his desire to distance himself from Easy Rider stardom. Both critics and studios dismissed the film upon it’s initial release but, in the year’s since, it’s naturalistic visuals paired with experimental montage sequences and poetic slow-motion have left hard marks in the landscape of filmmaking. The Hired Hand takes a seat up there with greats like Badlands and Jeremiah Johnson.

But the cult success of The Hired Hand would be nowhere near as remarkable if not for Bruce Langhorne’s soundtrack. The multi-instrumentalist takes us down sparsely-traveled dirt roads and alongside creeks and groves with Peter Fonda and Warren Oates in the stirrups. He drenches the film in gritty banjo and fiddle and brings it all home with the lonesome echoes of native flutes. Langhorne’s score acts as a superb supporting character to an already stellar cast and is the icing on top of a masterwork that was once forgotten and currently garnering appreciation from every angle.

The Hired Hand is available on Collector’s Edition DVD and the soundtrack will make it’s second limited run on 180g vinyl on Scissor Tail Records on November 11. words / p dufrene

Bruce Langhorne :: Ending

Related: Maison Dufrene III :: Outlaws, Ramblers & Hired Hands (A Mixtape)

namericaThe steady hand of Canadian musicologist and curator Kevin “Sipreano” Howes has been present in many of Seattle-based label Light in the Attic’s key releases, but his newest project for the label, the mammoth collection Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985, is not only his most personal, but also one of the label’s most historically significant releases.

“I started seeking out Canadian Aboriginal recordings on vinyl around 15 years ago,” Howes explains. He pitched the idea of a collection covering native sounds to Light in the Attic, with whom he’s worked for a decade. With a firm go-ahead secured, Howes got to work. Though the music speaks for itself, Howes provides deep historical context for these songs, detailing the artists and their stories in a lavish 60-page book, drawing on interview sessions Howes conducted with the artists, photos, original LP and 45 artwork, and lyrics (with translations of the songs in Native languages). The book contains a full page of thanks, and Howes is quick to add, “Much love to the trailblazing artists who made this work possible!” each time he discusses the set.

“After I fell in love with the music, I had to learn more about these incredible artists,” Howes explains. “Unfortunately, academic texts and Canadian history/music books didn’t take me very far. Even the good old Internet was shooting blanks, but in my experience, going straight to the source is always the best.”

Some artists proved easier to find than others, Howes explains. “Legendary Métis singer-songwriter Willie Dunn wasn’t easy to get a hold of at first, but the Inuit rock band Sugluk from Salluit, Quebec (in the province’s Nunavik arctic region), were really challenging to contact. Some of the members didn’t have telephones, so I actually had to put out a message in Inuktitut over the northern community radio airwaves with the help of a local radio host.”

The musical breadth featured is nearly as vast as the geographic ground the collection covers, gathering folk rock, psychedelic grooves, country soul, and garage rock from distinct Indigenous cultures across Canada and Alaska. “All 36 songs blow my mind in one way or another,” Howes says. “They were often made for folks in their regional communities, but like musicians the world over, most were hoping that their songs would be able to reach as many people as possible.”
Not all of the music featured on the collection is obscure; some of the artists, like Sugluk, Sikumiut, and William Tagoona were recorded and broadcast nationally by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Howes cites Willie Dunn’s “international acclaim.” But the collection also draws on regional and private-press releases. “Much of this music wasn’t heard outside of the greater Aboriginal music community at the time of release,” Howes says. “…this music was very much embraced on the reserves and in regional communities across the country, as well as gaining some traction in coffeehouses, dance halls, and the folk festival circuit.”

As such, Howes envisions the set as both a way to commemorate and catalog the work of Native artists (a second volume, featuring music from the United States’ lower 48 and Mexico, is already in the works), but also start a larger conversation about their importance and musical value. “I think it would be so cool if people out there had listening parties with their friends,” Howes says, “where they could share the experience together and talk about what they’ve heard and seen.”
Howes himself has already had the pleasure of sharing the set – with the creators responsible for the music it contains.

“It’s been great starting to share the compilation with the artists themselves. When revisiting music from the past, you are often bringing back the full range of emotions that went into its creation. These emotions can be both good and bad, but I want this to be a positive thing for everyone, a celebration! There is much joy in Native North America, but there is also deep pain and struggle. It was a massive honor for me to learn firsthand about this cultural and spiritual history.” words / j woodbury

Willie Dunn :: I Pity The Country

foxygen

Returning to a tack they’d previously embraced before achieving a measure of critical success, … And Star Power reorients Foxygen’s trajectory, without any regard for making a “follow-up.” In hindsight, 2011’s Take The Kids Off Broadway EP and 2013’s We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic were – in  Star Power’s wake – outliers within their discography.

Those two albums, by turns invigorating and confounding, were the most polished works Foxygen had released to date. They were, however, not debut albums. From 2005-2011, Foxygen made several EPs and at least one “album,” — only no one heard them. Kill Art and Ghettoplastikk are twenty-odd minute journeys through two teenage boys discovering themselves and their sound. They feature as many great, catchy tracks as they do maddening ones, and display an emerging confidence in their studio weirdness. “Jurrassic Exxplosion Philippic” is a 30-song “opera” that’s light on song length and lighter on concentration, but flashes a progressing prodigy. An EP in 2011, and various other tracks (and untold more stowed away on external hard drives) also punctuate what amounts to ten years of output.

Foxygen :: How Can You Really

kevin_morby

Late last year, after incessant touring among the ranks of his Alma mater acts Woods and The Babies, Kevin Morby released his solo debut – the stunning folk of Harlem River. On the self-proclaimed ‘homage to New York City,’ Morby transposed from supporting role to lead with a nonchalance often not found among even the most seasoned of songwriters. After relocating to the West Coast, it’s perhaps the changes both sonically and geographically that allowed Morby the necessary means to begin shaping the music he had always sought to make.

Speaking with Morby just a few days before the release of Still Life, a road worn collection of songs that weaves in and out of reality, his demeanor is much akin to his music, both kind and introspective. Having returned home just a day prior from a European trek, Morby spoke excitedly about learning to take music seriously, his introduction to psychedelic music, and his new found love of being a “solo artist.” Still Life is out now via Woodsist.

Aquarium Drunkard: You’re coming off a run of European Dates with Justin from the Babies. What was the response like this go around?

Kevin Morby: It was incredible. I’ve been telling a few people this but it’s the best tour I’ve ever been on, to be honest. Justin and I have played music together for a longtime and it’s always sort of been in a rock band environment; three to four people up on-stage, atypical rock bands…which is great and fun, but we did it as a two piece as a financial decision. So we could both get over there and both see money.

AD: Were you nervous at all about it being just the two of you?

Kevin Morby: We were nervous as shit about it at first, but it opened up a whole world that hadn’t been penetrated by me, or us, yet. Especially with the singer-songwriter thing because with it being just a two piece it was very quiet, Justin played with brushes. We both played at the front of the stage and kind of built this little environment with a lamp and a rug on stage. We played small clubs and it was really intimate. I got to play a large part of my catalog that we hadn’t approached yet because we were able to draw back a bit. It was almost like being in a new band. It was awesome.

AD: I’ve caught your set in a few different settings. Your songs keep the same weight and intensity regardless of the lineup. Are you thinking of this while writing?

Kevin Morby: It’s not something I think about a ton. I have no problem going into a studio and having a lot of bells and whistle knowing I won’t be able to demonstrate that live. One of the things I like about being a – quote on quote – solo artist is that (the music) can exist in a bunch of different ways.

There’s this live Lou Reed record that I’m obsessed with from ’72 and part of what I love about it is that he’s playing all these songs off of Transformer and stuff, these big songs. But it’s him with a four piece band, so all the horn parts they play as guitar solos and he does the back-up vocal oohs and aahs. I like that dynamic a lot.

Kevin Morby :: Parade

152509Tucked modestly between the magical “Some Day I’ll Be A Farmer” and the happy-go-lucky “Brand New Key” lies a timeless gem that illuminates Melanie’s 1971 record, Gather Me, with elements of what music was, will be and ultimately what it should be. In this swooning narrative of new beginnings, Safka’s vocals gently tell the story of a finished relationship and the hesitant start of a new and unattached life.

In quiet whispers of apprehension she tip-toes through the verses and falls headfirst into the chorus, accompanied by cascading strings and countrified harmonica. This is sincerely one of Melanie’s masterpieces. words / p dufrene

Melanie :: Steppin’

1

Jimmy Lee Williams lived his entire life in Poulan, GA. He also lived his entire life as a peanut farmer and juke joint rocker.

Williams was pretty much unknown to everyone outside of his town and farming community until musicologist, George Mitchell, discovered and recorded Williams on his farm in the late 1970s. He wasn’t admired until ten years after his death. Williams has the ability to really fill the entire room with just his guitar and voice. He exchanges the parts where he doesn’t sing with humming and cooing. His train chugging rhythm is very similar to Bukka White, yet has its own distinctive style. Sometimes you really do have to let your backbone ease and hoot your belly. Go ahead, try it.  words / m norton

Jimmy Lee Williams :: Hoot Your Belly Give Your Backbone Ease
Jimmy Lee Williams :: Have You Ever Seen Peaches

Maison3

Tip your hat to block the sun, wipe the dirt from your boots and let the scratchy recordings of heroes take you on a journey through the back roads of America and the untamed West.

Maison Dufrene III :: Outlaws, Ramblers & Hired Hands

Bruce Langhorne – Opening
Lee Hazlewood – If It’s Monday Morning
Townes Van Zandt – Like A Summer Thursday
John Stewart – Willard
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mississippi You’re On My Mind
Terry Allen – Do They Dream Of Hell In Heaven
Bob Dylan, Booker T. & Bruce Langhorne – Billy
Bob Dylan – Thirsty Boots
James Talley – Give My Love To Marie
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – With God On Our Side
Townes Van Zandt – My Proud Mountains
Bruce Langhorne – Ending

Previously: Maison Dufrene: Volume One / Maison Dufrene: Volume Two

palmerListening to the first 30 seconds or so of Steve Palmer’s excellent Unblinking Sun, you might think you’re in for an album of low-key, Fahey-style fingerpicking. Think again. Six-string eclecticism is the Minnesotan’s MO, as Palmer rapidly shifts gears into the careening krautrock boogie of “Cassini,” with a classic motorik beat and whiplash electric guitars providing the fuel for a fun, loose-limbed ride.

Unblinking Sun may bounce around stylistically over the course of the album’s 40+ minutes, but the overall vibe is cohesive and engaging, drifting from dreamy, feedback-layered drones of ” Banjo Burner” to the noisy rattle of “Plastic Mouth.” As a new addition to the ever-expanding realm of recent guitar anti-heroes, Palmer is one to watch. words / t wilcox

Steve Palmer :: Cassini

500full

My grandfather, C.W. Hardwick, died when I was sixteen. We were not close. Growing up, I knew very little about him. I knew that he was fond of jumpsuits, Sam Houston cigars, Murder She Wrote, and that he owned a coin-op business in San Antonio, Texas. We would drive or fly out from California on a fairly regular basis to visit my mother’s side of the family, but we spent most of our time with aunts and uncles, eating Tex-mex and swimming in the Comal river. “Pop” as he was known in the family, just didn’t have much time for grandkids. Oddly enough, he did end up inadvertently shaping my musical tastes—particularly in Rhythm & Blues, and early Soul records.

C.W. Hardwick Enterprises Inc. was, to my understanding, essentially a one-man operation. He would sell and service pinball machines, one-armed bandits, video games and his cash crop so to speak–jukeboxes. If you were to walk into any pool hall or ice house (e.g. Bar) in central Texas from 1950 to 1990 and drop a coin into the jukebox, there is a pretty good chance my grandfather put it there. Being the jukebox man meant that it was his responsibility to keep his machines stocked with the newest hits. All of those discs were sent directly to him from record labels and their distributors on a regular basis. What he did not stock, he kept.

When he died, he left behind over 4,000 45s—jukebox records he had miserly stored for forty years. My uncle transported them from the warehouse of C.W. Hardwick Enterprises after the building was sold to the warehouse of his own business where he asked me if I’d like to take them off his hands. I gladly agreed, but being sixteen and living in my parents’ house, I knew that if I were to take the entire stash my folks would probably hassle me forevermore about where I/they would store such a mass of vinyl–so I did what I thought would be the next best thing.