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Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing.

Luke Winslow-King’s latest long-player, Everlasting Arms, hit shelves last month via label home, Bloodshot Records. Once again, the New Orleans based journeyman’s latest collection is a swirling medley of primitive blues, gospel, folk and beyond. For this installment of Diversions, Winslow-King highlights a choice selection of Delta Blues and NOLA favorites.

Abner Jay :: The Reason Young People Use Drugs

I think Abner Jay really understands America’s youth. He has a knack for singing very direct lyrics without metaphor. His sadness and life experience are shared so purely and honestly. You can’t tell from this video that Abner Jay is a one man band; singing, and playing harmonica, guitar, and drums with his feet.

They don’t make ‘em like The Johnny Cash Show anymore. In September 1969, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott appeared on the program and performed this spellbindingly cosmic rendition of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter.” Perhaps it’s the aging of the footage; the sepia-toned wear and the forested set, but there is something completely enigmatic about this performance. Jack’s posture is mysterious, his voice alien – high and reedy one moment, then deep and gravelly the next, nailing the poignancy of a line like “If I were a miller/at a mill wheel grinding/would you miss your colored blouse/your soft shoes shining.” His guitar-playing, meandering, especially at the end, accentuates the unknowingness of the tune. It carries the song’s question mark punctuation to its only logical conclusion – a mystic frontier of clouded love.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott :: If I Were A Carpenter

Post script – The studio version of Ramblin’ Jack’s cover, off his 1968 lp Young Brigham, is no less powerful, with just the right elements intertwining in the mix: organ, tabla and reverb. words / c depasquale

NeilYoung

Dig into this — a wide array of Neil covers from his first decade or so in action. There’s folk rock, funk rock, country rock, yacht rock, pop rock — all kinds of rock. And plenty of other stuff, too. New perspectives on old favorites. Say hello to Mr. Soul.  / t wilcox

STEVE GUNN

With 2013’s Time Off, guitarist Steve Gunn took a leap that often proves disastrous for guitar soli performers: he started singing.

His albums had featured vocals before, but Time Off was different. On it, Gunn embraced proper songcraft, echoing the timeless strains of the Grateful Dead, Rob Galbraith, and J.J. Cale, pairing impressionistic lyrics and his smoky voice with Appalachian drones, cyclical riffs, and long-form boogies. Gunn was terrific as an instrumental bandleader and improviser; he proved to be an even better songwriter.

Ever prolific, Gunn followed the album with works more rooted in the instrumental realm, Melodies For a Savage Fix with Mike Gangloff, Cat Mask at Huggie Temple with Desert Heat, and Cantos De Lisboa, recorded with British folk guitarist Mike Cooper. But his new long player, Way Out Weather, is indeed the proper follow up to Time Off, a continuation of that record’s transformative ideas.

Time Off was us kind of getting more comfortable in a studio,” Gunn says over the phone from New York, speaking in the same deliberate tones as he sings his songs. “Most of the recordings that I made previous to that were live or kind of home recordings… recording live shows or setting up a rat trap of microphones in my apartment.”

Gunn says Time Off was an extension of his work with drummer John Truscinski, freeform jams drawing from a wealth of deep music the two shared: early sixties electric blues from Chicago, Malian blues by Ali Farka Touré and Boubacar Traoré, the sounds of Musa Ma’rufi, tanbur player Ostad Elahi, sitarist Nikhil Banerjee, and the Dagar Brothers.

ATOZ_12in_TIPONWorking in at Black Dirt Studios in upstate New York with Jason Meagher, Gunn, Truscinski, and Justin Tripp took those vibes and added in elements of West Coast psychedelia and sterling J.J. Cale grooves. With a proper singer/songwriter album under his belt, Gunn invited an even larger band to Black Dirt to fill out Way Out Weather: Truscinski and Tripp returned, along with stringman Nathan Bowles, harpist Mary Lattimore, Meagher on bass, James Elkington on lap steel and Jimy Seitang playing synth. Tripp served as producer, arranging parts while others tracked.

“Everyone was workshopping things while we were tracking other things,” Gunn explains. “It was really a kind of awesome process. People would just kind of drop in and accompany what I was doing.” Gunn and the band had discussions about specific studios — Capricorn, Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios — and players, like the Wrecking Crew and Ron Elliott, the guitarist and arranger on some of Gunn’s favorite records: Candlestick Maker, the Beau Brummels’ Bradley’s Barn, and the Everly Brothers’ Roots. “We got real interested in approaching things influenced by some of the records we were freaking out about,” Gunn says.

With a larger ensemble in tow, Way Out Weather is more colorful than its predecessor, evoking the full band interplay of Fairport Convention or Van Morrison and band live at Montreux in 1974. The band sounds exuberant, like prime Dead on “Milly’s Garden,” playfully ornate on “Shadow Bros,” evoking the haunting layers of Frippertronics on “Wildwood,” and gets ominously groovy on the album’s stunning closer, “Tommy’s Congo,” where Gunn intones, “Never look down at what you need to do,” over a looping drumbeat and swaggering bass.

unnamedLexington, KY’s Bear Medicine doesn’t occupy a space–it invents one. Any description of their music using rock crit shorthand—“chamber-prog-folk,” for instance—seems inadequate, even misleading. To put it plainly, Bear Medicine leaves me speechless. Joshua Wright’s songs simultaneously nod to and annihilate time-tested songform traditions, while the band’s spooky energy and skillful arrangements combine to reveal a multiplicity of ideas within each strange, evocative song. Fans of artists as varied as Comus, Led Zeppelin circa III, Kayo Dot, and Townes Van Zandt will be unable to resist the Aquarian Dream Music of this precocious and deeply psychedelic young band.

Bear Medicine’s debut album, The Moon Has Been All My Life, is a concept album that loosely threads together themes of uncertainty: life, loss, doubt, and fear. Using the unlikely combination of cello, flute, piano, acoustic guitar, and skittery percussion, the band creates songs as beautiful as they are odd, as lucid as they are meticulously composed. The Moon Has Been All My Life will be released on vinyl by the band on October 14th and though the album’s myriad charms are best revealed in one uninterrupted sitting, the hastier among you can check out an exclusive premier of the song “All You Celestials” below. words / j jackson toth

Bear Medicine :: All You Celestials

trish_keenan

Tuesday marked the late Trish Keenan’s birthday, she would have turned 46. Her partner and bandmate, James Cargill, released two demos this week from the 2004 Tender Button sessions, via the band’s “Future Crayon” website, in her remembrance. That record is often referred to as “the minimal one” by fans — a more simplified-sounding collection compared to the blooming psychedelia of its predecessors; Ha Ha Sound and The Noise Made by People. These Tender Buttons demos, “Goodbye Girls” and “Tears in the Typing Pool”, do not sound far off from the album versions, but Keenan’s voice is somehow even more comforting in demo form. words / s mcdonald

Related: do not miss the group’s Black Session recorded in Paris for La Maison de la Radio in 2000.

reggaegang

Just in time to help you squeeze the last remnants of heat out of this Indian summer, the fifth installment of our ongoing Bomboclat! series is an atmospheric and predominantly dub heavy mixtape. Hat tip to Jon “Sir Lord Comic” for his help in compiling these tracks. Find volumes one through four, here. – Cognoscere

Download: Bomboclat! Island Soak 5 :: Jamaican Vintage Dub (zipped folder)

tracklisting after the jump. . .

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The Mattson 2 are twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson. Descending from southern California. with one brother on drums and the other guitar, they are a self-described jazz duo. But as Agar, their latest lp, attests, they occupy a space much wider than that. At only five tracks and just under thirty minutes long, Agar is certainly concise; a clear and focused statement on both the brothers’ artistic chops and frame of mind. However, it’s also a complete freak-out of an album –- two extraordinary musicians letting loose, chasing the muse.

Agar opens with a collective howl, a commencement to the boundless sonic exploration that is soon to follow. Album opener “Peaks of Yew” finds Jared locking into a hypnotic raga groove as layers of eastern-leaning atmospherics, provided by Farmer Dave Scher, wash through the spaces. It’s a track that glistens across an orange reddish sky before erupting into flames.

There is a cinematic scope to the sounds on this record. “Dif Juz” begins in an almost conceptual western tension, all tingling guitars, before propelling into widescreen ambience. “Pure Ego Death” sounds like the score to an imaginary science fiction film; all tones and waves and air, flowing across an empty, desolate landscape. “Meluminary” rips freer and faster, a pure free-jazz jam that is perhaps the best example of the brothers telepathic chemistry — effortlessly and mesmerizingly in-sync. Jonathan takes the reigns about halfway through, launching into a manic drum solo, occasionally pierced by haunting, alien transmissions.

The album’s closing title-track is pure metal, finding both brothers taking their playing to an inflammatory extreme, a culmination of the album up to this point – pinpoint precision unleashed and enflamed. We, the listener, engulfed. words / c depasquale

Mattson 2 :: Peaks of Yew

miriam

An eclectic medley of ramblin’ folk, African rhythms and mellow tunes to usher in that October breeze.

Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Soulful Shade of Blue – A Medley

Brook Benton – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
Miriam Makeba – Oxgam
Bob Lind – Fennario
Tom Paxton – Last Thing On My Mind
The Beach Boys – Little Bird
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Soulful Shade Of Blue
Matthews Southern Comfort – Tell Me Why (Neil Young)
Richard & Linda Thompson – Down Where The Drunkards Roll
Tom Waits – Old Shoes
Greg Brown – Out In The Country
Hazel and Alice – Pretty Bird

Related: Aquarium Drunkard Presents: September – A Medley