Results for folk

interviews

Pere Ubu

Pere Ubu live It is rare that true pioneers grace the Sound Opinions studio, but this week Jim and Greg are joined by punk progenitors Pere Ubu. Many credit the famous (and often infamous) Cleveland band for being on the ground floor of the punk movement, but band leader David Thomas doesn‘t really buy into that label. In pure Thomas form, the singer/songwriter grouses about punk’s corporate co-opting, and prefers to think of himself as a folk singer. Whatever you want to call it, Sound Opinions thinks it rocks. Check out their performances of songs "Babylonian Warehouses" and "Caroleen," off their new album Why I Hate Women.

The title of Pere Ubu's new album, Why I Hate Women, is certainly a conversation starter. But, as discussed, these views don‘t represent those of David Thomas or Pere Ubu. Like many of Thomas’ songs, the tracks on this album are written from the perspective of a character, in this case inspired by the fictional writings of pulp novelist Jim Thompson. Thomas explains that most songs are just stories, defying the notion that 20-year-old rock stars have any true angst.

Go to episode 51

Iron and Wine

Next up, Iron and Wine join Jim and Greg in the studio. The band began as a lo-fi 4-track project for folk singer/songwriter Sam Beam. Today, he works with a full band and is selling out shows across the country. Many listeners may also be familiar with Iron and Wine through their contributions to soundtracks like Garden State, Twilight and Grey's Anatomy. Iron and Wine's most recent album is Kiss Each Other Clean, which was produced by Brian Deck. As Sam explains to Jim and Greg, it's a more pop-driven record, inspired by his own early experiences falling in love with music like Fleetwood Mac. But, he didn't abandon his lyrical style, one that is often inspired by the Bible. Check out Iron and Wine's live performance and video.

Go to episode 302

Los Lobos

Recently, Jim and Greg were joined by an audience of Sound Opinions and Los Lobos fans for a special recording at City Winery Chicago. Louie Perez, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin showed everyone what it means to have 4 decades of chops and unity under their belts. Since forming in high school in East L.A., Los Lobos has always pushed the boundaries of whatever genre they explored: rock, punk, Mexican folk, R&B, jazz, psychedelia. Most of that is a far cry from their huge 1987 hit "La Bamba." But, perhaps that cover got fans like Elmo in the door. Now the group has a new album called Gates of Gold, its first release in 5 years.

Go to episode 533

Robert Wyatt

Jim and Greg are joined by Robert Wyatt in the next segment. While he may not be a household name, Wyatt is one of the most influential musicians of the rock era. As a drummer with 1960s group Soft Machine, Wyatt reinvented prog rock, and was a pioneer of jazz-rock fusion. He was later ousted from Soft Machine, and in 1973 a terrible fall rendered him a paraplegic. But, as his interview with Jim and Greg reveals, Wyatt never ceased to be an innovator. Jim explains that Wyatt's been having a career resurgence in recent years. He was not only up for the prestigious Mercury Prize in England in 2003, but he is releasing a new album, Comicopera, on Domino Records, the label that is also home to Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys.

Greg begins by asking Wyatt about his appeal to a younger generation of musicians, including Thom Yorke and Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Wyatt can‘t explain this phenomenon, but he imagines that people respect how he does his own thing and makes music for music’s sake. It's inspirational for young musicians to see that you can maintain artistic integrity and, at the same time, longevity.

Wyatt formed the Soft Machine with three other schoolmates, and he never imagined that they'd eventually be opening up for Jimi Hendrix on his 1968 tour. The music of that time influenced his politics as well as his sound. But while contemporaries like The Rolling Stones looked to the blues, Wyatt and the Soft Machine looked to jazz. After his accident, though, Wyatt was forced to approach drumming differently than other jazz musicians. By eliminating the element of acrobatic virtuosity that jazz drummers often focus on, Wyatt was free to focus on the beats and the sounds. But, listeners shouldn‘t confuse Wyatt’s experimentalism with an anti-pop attitude. He says, "Pop music is the folk music of the post-industrial era, and folk music is the most important music in the world."

Go to episode 100

The Mekons

To put it simply, The Mekons are a bit of an enigma. The 40-year-old band hails from the English punk scene, with contemporaries including The Sex Pistols and The Clash. However since 1977, The Mekons have been writing their own unique narrative. The group worshipped American roots music from artists like Hank Williams, and blended their raucous live performance style with sounds of punk, country, folk and more. The Mekons have always had a revolving line-up, and three members joined Jim and Greg for a chat and live performance: Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh and Lu Edmonds. They talk about their long career, a short stint on a major label and the unusual methods used to record their latest album, Existentalism.

Go to episode 578

Shirley Collins

Of all the English folk revival artists, Shirley Collins was perhaps the most devoted to rural folk traditions. But at the same time, her records were incredibly innovative in their approach. Her 1964 album Folk Roots, New Routes with guitarist Davey Graham fused ancient songs with jazz arrangements, paving the way for bands like Fairport Convention. In collaboration with her sister Dolly, Shirley Collins also recorded with early music instruments and Renaissance ensembles. She even went electric with her acclaimed 1971 album No Roses. After developing a vocal condition known as dysphonia, Shirley gave up recording in 1978. Since then, she's become an inspiration to a new generation of artists, including The Decemberists' Colin Meloy, who covered one of her songs live on Sound Opinions. Now, after a nearly 40 year hiatus, she's returned with a new album, Lodestar. She joins Jim and Greg to explain why she returned to singing and how she chose her rather bloodsoaked repertoire.

In addition to her own recording career, Shirley Collins played an important role in music history when she accompanied legendary musicologist Alan Lomax as he traveled through the American south in 1959. Together, they collected field recordings of traditional working-class artists on farms, prisons, and churches. Their tapes of musicians like Mississippi Fred McDowell, Almeda Riddle, and Hobart Smith were huge influences on generations of artists, including Bob Dylan.

Go to episode 584

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613

Colin Meloy

Next up on the show is an interview with Decemberists lead singer Colin Meloy. Colin came through town on his solo tour and seemed to be enjoying a break from the major label bureaucracy that is now involved in launching a Decemberists tour.

After performing "Tristan and Isolde," a song he wrote with his first band, Tarkio, Colin discusses his literary roots. While he does put heavy emphasis on narrative in his music, this songwriter hesitates to call himself a storyteller. He cannot hesitate to call himself an author, however — Colin wrote about The Replacements' Let It Be for the ‘33 1/3’ series, describing the impact that that album made on him as a budding musician.

The next song is "Barbara Allen," a tune originally performed by Shirley Collins, a British folk revivalist who has been a big inspiration to Colin. He explains that fans can look forward to hearing more Collins on the next Decemberists record. These same fans can also look forward to Jim's bodhrán jam session with the band.

Go to episode 9

Against Me!

The punk band Against Me! formed in Gainesville, FL in 1997 by then lead singer Thomas Gabel and guitarist James Bowman. The band took the aesthetics and ideals of punk rock and filtered them through the lens of classic rock, indie rock and folk to create a sound all their own. Against Me! landed a major label deal with Sire Records but then things began to change. They were dropped by Sire, the band began to break apart and Thomas Gabel began a gender transition to Laura Jane Grace. Laura Jane has documented her transition in the band's 2014 critically lauded album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. She and the group sat down with Jim and Greg late last year to discuss the evolution of her personal and musical life. The band also played songs from their 2014 record, to which Jim and Greg both gave a Buy It rating.

Go to episode 493

Tim Fite

When Jim and Greg were in Austin, TX for SXSW they met with music artist Tim Fite. In 2007, Fite made Over the Counter Culture, one of Jim and Greg's favorite albums of the year and released it for free. Now he's back with a new record called Fair Ain't Fair that he's releasing the old-fashioned way. But, the artist explains that the subject matter of this album isn‘t as political and anti-consumerist, and therefore would be appropriate for sale. Plus he’s happy to support a great record label like Anti. Fite's music is hard to classify, but you can hear the folk, hip-hop, rock, blues mix in the songs performed on the show, as well as in a special bonus track.

Go to episode 124

Alejandro Escovedo

Veteran roots rocker Alejandro Escovedo has dabbled in everything from punk to folk to country, and it shows on his new album Real Animal. He stops by the Sound Opinions studio to talk with Jim and Greg about his long solo career and how after 30 years he's finally getting more mainstream recognition. But, while he hasn't always been a household name, Escovedo has always had famous fans, including The Boss himself. You can hear "Always a Friend" the song he recently performed with Bruce Springsteen, as well as all his live tracks here.

Go to episode 156

Ani DiFranco

Singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco visits Jim and Greg this week. Ani is one of the original independent musicians, having formed her own label, Righteous Babe, at the age of 19. She has emerged as a hugely successful touring musician and one of the driving forces in folk music today. Now, Ani is back with her 18th studio album Red Letter Year, her first since becoming a mother. But though it's been described as her“happy”record, Red Letter Year is full of her trademark, political rants including "Alla This," which she performs live on the show. You can also check out her other live songs, "Present Infant," and "November 5, 2008."

Go to episode 203

Jac Holzman

Jac Holzman

Before there was a Merge or a Matador there was Elektra Records. The great American label recently celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, and its founder Jac Holzman is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month. Jim and Greg talk to Jac about launching Elektra as an independent folk label out of his dorm room in 1950. Eventually the roster grew to include every genre of music – blues, rock, funk, world and pop. It became the home to The Stooges, the MC5, Love and Queen, and, Jim adds, some notoriously difficult personalities. But Jac insists no artist was too hard to handle. He did use caution when out drinking with Jim Morrison, however.

Go to episode 275

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson is a rock survivor, and with each decade comes a new successful era—whether it's Fairport Convention in the 1960's, with Linda Thompson in the '70s or as a solo artist. (You can check out producer, Joe Boyd, talking about Thompson & Fairport Convention here.) In fact, he's one of only a handful of artists, along the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who have sustained a high level of artistic intensity and integrity since the '60s. And to further set him apart, he's one of few guitar heroes from that generation without an obvious debt to the blues. Instead, you'll hear blends of Eastern tones, jazz, Scottish balladry and Celtic folk. Jim and Greg agree he's one of the most underrated guitarists and songwriters in folk history and would urge acts like Mumford & Sons to“Listen and Learn.”The first step would be to study his live performance, which includes a gem from the "Capitolyears," the yet to be released "Fergus Lang," and the Richard and Linda classic "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight." Plus, check out the bonus track, Greg's request, "Dimming of the Day," which may be his most beautiful love song to date.

Go to episode 446

The Both

Ted Leo and Aimee Mann seem like an unlikely pairing: he's punk, she's folk, but as The Both, the duo make beautiful music together. And inspiration for forming this“mutual admiration society”came from some strange places including Twitter and a shared love of comedy and Thin Lizzy. And the project seems to have been liberating for both musicians—freeing them up from their typecast constraints of“political rocker”or“singer-songwriter.”Ted and Aimee perform songs from The Both's self-titled debut, including a celebration of "Milwaukee" and its utterly bizarre "Bronze Fonz."

Go to episode 463
specials

Bob Dylan at 75: Folk Days to Newport

Dylan in the studio

Don't Look Back, the classic Bob Dylan documentary instructs us. But as the American music icon just turned 75 on May 24th, Jim and Greg can‘t help saying happy birthday by revisiting our multi-part special on his life and career. In our first installment, we focus on Dylan’s early years as a folkie and protest singer in New York. Dylan moved from Minnesota to Greenwich Village in 1961 at age 19. Within just a few years, he was signed to Columbia Records, teamed up with manager Albert Grossman, released four albums, and become“the voice of a generation.”Jim and Greg spoke to Dylan expert Clinton Heylin in 2009 about the singer's influences during those years and his growth as a songwriter and performer. Clinton explored Dylan's entire song catalog in two companion books, Revolution in the Air and Still on the Road.

Never one to be pigeonholed, Dylan abandoned categories just as soon as he was assigned them. At his headlining set at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island on July 25, 1965, Dylan went electric by playing with a full rock band. Jim and Greg get a first-hand account of the infamous concert from musician, songwriter and A&R man Al Kooper. Al performed with Dylan onstage at Newport, and he dispels a half-century's worth of myths about the“boos”that allegedly came from the crowd.

Next week, we conclude our Dylan celebration with a look at Blonde on Blonde and Dylan's "Modern Times."

Go to episode 548

2014 In Memoriam

Jim and Greg remember some great musical figures who died in 2014. Here are just some of the people we'll miss.

Go to episode 475

Bob Dylan

heylin

If all that talk about clouds and androids hasn't made you feel old, get this…Bob Dylan is turning 70 this May. And we here at Sound Opinions feel that this birthday boy deserves not one, but three episodes in his honor. This week is the first installment and focuses on Dylan's early years as a folkie and protest singer in New York. Dylan moved to Greenwich Village in 1961 at age 19. Within just a few years, he had signed to Columbia Records, teamed up with manager Albert Grossman, released four albums, and become“the voice of a generation.”Never one to be pigeonholed, Dylan abandoned categories just as soon as he was assigned them. Jim and Greg talk to Dylan expert Clinton Heylin about the singer's influences during those years and his growth as a songwriter and performer. Clinton recently explored Dylan's entire song catalog in two companion books, Revolution in the Air and Still on the Road.

Following their conversation, Jim and Greg talk about their favorite Dylan tracks from 1961-1964. Jim chooses a protest song that has remained timeless, and one that Dylan continues to perform, "Masters of War." He fell in love with this song, which was released on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963, through the many covers of it. Greg goes with a song that is less well-known, but no less impactful. And it showcases Dylan's strengths as a singer…yes that's right, singer. "Moonshiner" is Dylan's take on a traditional folk song, and as Greg explains, features a sound he would return to in later years. A version was released on The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3.

Want more Dylan? Check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this special series.

Go to episode 279
classic album dissections
Astral Weeks (Expanded Edition)Astral Weeks available on iTunes

Van Morrison Astral Weeks

Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 41 years ago, and to celebrate he released a live version of the album. This gave Jim and Greg a perfect opportunity to look back at Astral Weeks with a Sound Opinions Classic Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. In addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.

Go to episode 171

Van Morrison Astral Weeks

Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 45 years ago, and to celebrate, Jim and Greg conduct a Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, in rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. But, in addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.

Go to episode 414
reviews
The Black Swan - SingleThe Black Swan available on iTunes

Bert Jansch The Black Swan

The final album up for review this week is by Scottish folk legend Bert Jansch. The guitarist and songwriter first received attention from fans like Neil Young, Jimmy Page and Sound Opinions guest Donovan, and now, 40 years later, he has finally been signed to an American record label. The Black Swan, released by Chicago-based Drag City, sounds like a classic Jansch record with melancholic tunes and his signature skillful guitar playing. But, there's also some young blood: Devendra Banhart, Beth Orton, and Mazzy Star's Dave Roback all make contributions. Immediately after listening to the track "When the Sun Comes Up," Jim announces that he despises this record. He thinks it is“pretentious boring drivel,”which he“hated to the core of his being.”This critic gives The Black Swan a Trash It. Greg contends that the guitar playing is brilliant and the songs beautiful. He thinks Jim completely missed the point, and gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 51
A Letter Home (Deluxe Version)A Letter Home available on iTunes

Neil Young A Letter Home

Neil Young is living in the past. Over the last few years, he's released several box sets, a memoir, and a 2012 album called Americana stuffed with vintage folk tunes. Now, on A Letter Home, his 35th album, he's again stepping back in time, revisiting the songs he loved as a teenage folkie in Toronto. For bonus nostalgia points, Young recorded the entire album on the 1947 Voice-O-Graph at Jack White's Third Man studios. Jim points out that the record was literally recorded in phone booth, so it's not an easy listen — but the unrefined sound is somehow fitting for Young (despite the artist's hi-fi evangelism). For Jim, A Letter Home is a fascinating look at the influences of a musical treasure, and he'd gladly Buy It. Greg predicts that some listeners will be turned off by the "sub-lo-fi" quality, but advises them to reconsider, and to take this album for what it is: the scrapbook of a young Young, equal parts warm and spooky. Still, while it's nice to hear that inspiration brought to life, Greg doesn't consider it essential Neil, and only suggests you Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 444
Have You in My WildernessHave You in My Wilderness available on iTunes

Julia Holter Have You in My Wilderness

Avant-garde singer-songwriter Julia Holter returns with her fourth studio album, Have You in My Wilderness. Holter is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who is influenced by both folk and electronic experimental music. Her earlier efforts were more abstract and disjointed, however her latest album takes on a more simple, pop demeanor. Greg really enjoyed this record and found its songs to be intelligently catchy. He really looks forward to hearing where she goes next in her musical career and gives this album a "Buy It." Jim agrees, and finds Have You in My Wilderness to be a pure joy. He appreciates her specific and unique interests in classical, folk and electronic music. Jim also compares her artistry to that of Bjork and gives Holter's album a "Buy It."

JimGreg
Go to episode 536
22, A Million22, A Million available on iTunes

Bon Iver 22, A Million

Bon Iver, the heart-on-sleeve, confessional music project of Justin Vernon, has received critical praise and a Grammy since its debut in 2007. 22, A Million is Bon Iver's first new album in five years and it is a marked departure with an emphasis on electronics over more traditional folk instrumentation. None of that ‘critical praise’ has come from Jim or Greg, and this album doesn‘t change that. Jim says Bon Iver’s music annoys him“more than fingernails on a blackboard.”He calls this album a“disaster,”with music that is long, slow and without melody. Greg, is only slightly more forgiving. He says Vernon sounds lost and this album is a manifestation of a crisis of conscience. However, that is not something he wants to listen to. If not obvious, this is a double- Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 566
RevelationsRevelations available on iTunes

Shamir Revelations

Singer-songwriter Shamir is back with a new album called Revelations. While his debut Ratchet sported a lot of house music and festival hooks, Revelations is a much more mid-fi effort that mixes genres like folk, soul and rock. Jim finds the record to be a shocking departure but in a good way. Shamir is singing about what's on his mind: racism, sexism, gender, sexuality, etc. He articulates his thoughts wonderfully with a sonically interesting blend of musical styles. Jim is a fan of Revelations and gives it a Buy it. Greg agrees, and loves that Shamir is asserting his independence and uniqueness as an artist. He also loves Shamir's allusions to other artists he admires, like the Ronettes and the Pixies. Greg finds this album to be inspired and interesting, and gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 624
West (Bonus Track Version)West available on iTunes

Lucinda Williams West

It may not be fair, but Lucinda Williams gets to follow the Ramones. Her new album, West, was released last week. This is Williams‘ eighth album in a 28-year career that has established her as one of music’s premiere singer/songwriters. Williams grew up steeped in literature and poetry as well as rock, country and folk music, and that background has really affected her sound. This album is in the same vein, but takes a somewhat different turn with producer Hal Wilner. Jim loves what Wilner contributes to the album. It feels like you are right there with Lucinda, who is“venting her spleen.”But, Jim has to wonder if everything is OK in the Williams household. The album is just too dark, and too oppressive. He gives it a Burn It. Greg agrees that people should hide their razor blades while listening to this album, but notes that Wilner is really effective at setting a mood and putting William's voice in the forefront. He just wishes that she varied the musical palette more on West. He'd like to hear more songs like the fiery "Come On." It's another Burn It for Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 64
24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault available on iTunes

Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault

The "Welsh Witch", Stevie Nicks, is back with her eighth solo studio album called 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, and as the title suggests, the record features new recordings of old songs Nicks has kept locked away since the late 1960's. To reimagine the decades-old tracks, she's enlisted the help of a squeaky clean Nashville backing band and squeky clean pop stars like Lady Antebellum and Vanessa Carlton. Jim is not a fan of these choices. He misses the old Stevie's Celtic folk feel and her ethereal voice, which is now starting to show its age. Jim knows the Stevie Nicks-faithful will still want to try the album, but its mediocre songs and altered star make it a Trash It for the rest of us. Greg also misses Nicks‘ distinctive personality and tires of the album’s inability to turn her meandering ideas into more shapely pop songs. Greg credits Nicks' former love and Fleetwood Mac bandmate Lindsey Buckingham for helping her achieve that in the past, but he's nowhere to be found on this record; except in many of the song's lyrics, which provide a sometimes uncomfortably voyeristic window into the couple's storied relationship. That said, the stripped-down piano and "Landslide"-like vocals on the song "Lady" are impressive, so Greg gives 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault a conditional Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 465
Shadows In the NightShadows in the Night available on iTunes

Bob Dylan Shadows in the Night

One of Bob Dylan's strengths is his ability to reinvent himself, especially in the '90s when he became his own producer under the pseudonym Jack Frost. Now in his seventies, he consistently takes his touring band into the studio every few years, giving his career a new surge of energy. So it's with that goal that he gives us Shadows in the Night, which is built around songs recorded by Frank Sinatra. Jim recognizes that while Dylan and Sinatra are two of the most important voices in the last half-century, they don't go well together. Dylan is great when he sings songs that suit him (folk, country) but it just doesn't work here; he gives it a Trash It. Greg believes that the production of this album and the choices Dylan made saved the record. He said if you care for Bob Dylan at all you should take a listen, giving it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 480
The King Is DeadThe King is Dead available on iTunes

The Decemberists The King is Dead

Since 2004, The Decemberists have evolved into full-blown theatricality. Now they scale it back with their sixth album The King is Dead. According to Jim, it's with this record that they silence critics of their prog antics and prove at their heart they're simply about great songwriting. Lead singer Colin Meloy and the band looked to American folk and roots music and enlisted R.E.M.'s Peter Buck for a track. Greg finds the results more straightforward. The King is Dead shows that less is more and gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 269
LooseLoose available on iTunes

Nelly Furtado Loose

Up for review this week is Loose, the third album from singer Nelly Furtado. She had breakout success with her 2000 record Whoa, Nelly!, featuring the hit single, "I'm Like a Bird." But she had less luck with her second album, Folklore, so on this go-around, Furtado sought out acclaimed producer Timbaland. Our critics disagree about the results. Jim finds her newly sexed-out image manufactured and unoriginal. He misses her more adventurous approach to music that incorporated pop with worldbeat and folk. Basically, Jim finds Nelly to be a“skanky ho.”That said, he does appreciate the Latin songs on Loose, and her ballad with Coldplay's Chris Martin. For Greg, these are the worst songs on the album. He prefers the irresistible dance numbers "Promiscuous" and "Maneater," which are full of Timbaland's signature grooves. Greg questions why Jim is upset by a woman being overtly sexual, and explains that he finds her lyrics flirtatious, playful and ultimately harmless. Both critics give Loose a Burn It — for very different reasons.

JimGreg
Go to episode 30
lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roarlullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar available on iTunes

Robert Plant lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar

For over half a century, Robert Plant has been making music and pushing the boundaries of rock ‘n’ roll. But despite being known as the Golden God of Led Zeppelin, most of those years were actually spent doing solo work and special projects, many of which incorporate wide range of American and international folk sounds, from Appalachia to the Middle East. Now he's back with his backing band the Sensational Space Shifters with the release lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar. Again you can hear West African poly—rhythms, Southern blues tones, and country music influences, proving that, as Jim put it,“Plant does whatever he wants.”Despite his respect for Plant's never-ending pursuit of the new, Jim wonders how much of this adoration should be credited to the 17-year-old Zep fan version of himself. So he says Try It. Greg, on the other hand, truly enjoyed the contemplative and quiet side of the“more tender Plant”displayed on this record and gladly prescribes a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 457
Raising SandRaising Sand available on iTunes

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant Raising Sand

The next segment also focuses on the melding of pop and folk music. Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant has collaborated with bluegrass virtuoso Alison Krauss on a new album called Raising Sand. Fans of Led Zeppelin III won‘t be surprised by Plant’s interest in American roots music; it's closely linked with Celtic folkmusic. But, Jim was surpised by the lack of chemistry between Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Both are phenomenal singer, and both were backed by a phenomenal band, but Jim just found himself getting sleepy. He can only give the album a Burn It. Greg admits that the record is subtle, and doesn't lend itself to all kinds of listening, but he was amazed by the harmonies Plant gives. He also thinks their song choices, which include Allen Toussaint and Gene Clark covers, were perfect. Greg gives Raising Sand a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 100
Washington Square SerenadeWashington Square Serenade available on iTunes

Steve Earle Washington Square Serenade

The album up for review this week is Washington Square Serenade by veteran roots-rocker Steve Earle. This is Earle's 12th studio album, and was partly inspired by his 7th wife. The singer/songwriter has always combined rock, folk and country with strong political messages, but, now he's adding“happiness”to the mix. As you can hear in many of the album's songs, Earle is very much in love with new wife Allison Moorer, who also appears on the record. Another new person in Earle's life is Dust Brothers producer John King, who has previously crafted albums for Beck and the Beastie Boys. King brought in elements of hip hop and Latin music, and Jim loves the results. It took him longer to get into Washington Square Serenade, than any other Earle album, but with the exception of two bum tracks, he gives it a Try It. Greg is less pleased with the happy Steve Earle. He explains that with the new wife, producer and location, this effort has all the trappings of a“mid-life crisis”recording. Only some of it works for Greg, and he misses the political broadsides of previous albums. Greg also gives Washington Square Serenade a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 97
We Shall Overcome (The Seeger Sessions) [American Land Edition]We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions available on iTunes

Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Sound Opinions listeners know they can always count on a heated conversation when it comes to The Boss. Bruce Springsteen came out with a new album this week (the 18th of his career), We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. This time around, the singer pays tribute to folk artist Pete Seeger, and Jim and Greg completely disagree on whether or not it is worth your time. Greg became a Springsteen fan early on, but has been disappointed in his rock hero in recent years. However, he asserts that We Shall Overcome is Springsteen's best album since Nebraska. He appreciates the more down-to-earth production style and political messages of the songs. He gives it a Buy It rating. Jim, on the other hand, states that this record literally makes him sick to his stomach. He has never been a Springsteen fan, but has occasionally given a favorable review to albums like Devils in Dust. He finds this Seeger tribute musically and lyrically conservative, and basically just completely pathetic. He does not want to hear Springsteen do folk songs ("Froggie Went a Courtin'," anyone?) and wishes that Springsteen followed in the path of Billy Bragg and Wilco, who paid homage to another folk hero, Woody Guthrie. Unlike that album, this one gets a Trash It from Mr. DeRogatis.

JimGreg
Go to episode 22
The VoyagerThe Voyager available on iTunes

Jenny Lewis The Voyager

It has been 6 years since California folk-rock siren Jenny Lewis released her last solo album, and Jim and Greg have been chomping at the bit to see what her most recent release has to offer. The former child actress turned indie songstress lived through some turbulent stresses during that time, including the death of her estranged father, a bout of insomnia and the break-up of her band, the power pop group Rilo Kiley. All of this made its way onto The Voyager, a slow syrupy overflow of calming soundscape reminiscent of California's late 60's/early 70's Laurel Canyon sound. Greg was taken by its deceptive smoothness. His only critique points toward the balmy sweetness of the music. However, that sound provides a great foil to the complicated lyrics. He says Buy It. Jim agrees, though he's less of a fan of Lewis' obvious inspiration (Fleetwood Mac to name one). But, he describes the album as brave and seconds the Buy It.

Check out Jenny on Sound Opinions

JimGreg
Go to episode 452
dijs

Greg

“Dream in Blue”Los Lobos

For his DIJ, Greg wants to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Los Lobos's Kiko. In 1992, grunge acts like Nirvana were shaking up the mainstream, and veteran acts like Los Lobos had to either reinvent or face irrelevance. Kiko, Greg says, was Los Lobos's answer to grunge's challenge. The group started out in the seventies playing a fusion of American roots rock and Mexican folk. Kiko saw main songwriters David Hidalgo and Louie Perez moving in a more trippy psychedelic direction, writing lyrics that were so concise, they were almost haiku-like. The band's new sound only really began to gel however when their label put them in the studio with producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake. Froom and Blake pumped up the distortion and keyboard effects, and suddenly Los Lobos were walking into a new sonic world. Greg says the album's opening track, "Dream in Blue," represents the door opening onto that new world. Hidalgo and Perez's lyrics describe a sleeping child who, as she begins to dream, finds herself entering a realm of unprecedented freedom.

Go to episode 355

Jim

“The Minotaur's Song”The Incredible String Band

It is Jim's turn to drop a song into the Desert Island Jukebox, and he wants listeners to hear some "freak folk" that is truly freaky. He chooses to add "The Minotaur's Song," by The Incredible String Band. This '60s folk act played at Woodstock, but, as Jim explains, was too freaky to be included in the movie. Like Bert Jansch, band members Mike Heron and Robin Williamson fused Scottish and Celtic folk music with Eastern European drones and the newer folk of artists like Bob Dylan. The Incredible String Band also had an incredible lifestyle, which also affected their sound. Jim thinks that freak and folk never meshed so well, and that's why he's bringing it with him to the Desert Island.

Go to episode 51

Greg

“Losing True”The Roches

Greg was inspired by a conversation he had at SXSW with a fan of The Roches, a sister group from New York City in the late '70s/early '80s. While British female-led post-punk bands like The Slits and The Raincoats are celebrated, their American counterparts like The Roches are often overlooked. Sisters Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy Roche began singing Christmas carols door-to-door, but were later recruited by Paul Simon to sing backup vocals. They had an artier, weirder strain than most others in the folk scene, with lyrics that could be very funny or extremely poignant. Robert Fripp of King Crimson became a huge fan and produced two of their records. Fripp's guitar line on "Losing True" combines with the sisters' rich vocals to create what Greg calls a celestial sound, landing it a spot in the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 488

Greg

“"You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio"”Joni Mitchell

Greg's been in a Joni Mitchell phase, and is particularly smitten with the singer/songwriter's 1976 release For the Roses. Between her folk phase and her avant-jazz phase, she released this record with the track "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio". Is it directed towards a romantic figure? Or a record company one? Add that question to the layers of sounds and influences from country to Latin to jazz, and you've got one wonderfully complicated song.

Go to episode 375

Greg

“"Bad Dog"”Ted Hawkins

On his latest trip to the desert island, Greg pays tribute to an unsung musical hero who passed away more than 20 years ago. Mississippi-born guitarist and singer Ted Hawkins was often found on Venice Beach strumming along to folk, blues, and country standards, but occasionally - often at the behest of an awestruck passerby - he made his way into a recording studio. One such occasion came after Hawkins spent a lengthy stint in jail working through a heroin addiction. The album Hawkins cut after his release, Happy Hour, features the poignant track "Bad Dog" which Greg sees as the perfect metaphor for the late soulman's erratic life and career, and the perfect song to get a sense of what the man was all about.

Go to episode 448
rock doctors

Rachel

Next up Drs. Kot and DeRogatis call another patient in from the waiting room. Rachel from Chicago, IL describes her musical symptoms as that of being stuck in a rut. She explains that she hasn't purchased any music in the past few years, and only listens to albums or mixes that her friends give her. Rachel is eager to improve her musical health though, and is willing to take her medicine — however bad it tastes. In order to steer Jim and Greg in the right direction, Rachel gives her medical/musical history . She counts U2 (during the Joshua Tree-era) and Tom Petty as two of her favorite artists, and explains that she really appreciates melody and lyrics in her music.

Dr. Jim gives the first prescription. He clues into Rachel's heartland rock leanings, but also wants to challenge her more. He decides to give the patient a dose of Wilco. Like '80s-era U2 and Tom Petty, Jeff Tweedy and the members of Wilco are strongly influenced by guitar-based American folk and rock. There is a strong emphasis on lyrics and on telling stories of the American condition. But like U2, who chose to work with avant-garde producer Brian Eno on The Joshua Tree, Wilco can also be very experimental. Jim finds this is especially true of their last album A Ghost is Born.

Dr. Greg is up next. He suspects that one of the things Rachel likes so much about her favorite music is how anthemic it is. Both Bono and Petty are strong frontmen that get a rise out of their audiences. He believes this is also the case with the music of Montreal band The Arcade Fire. In fact, U2 opened up their last tour with a performance of the song "Wake Up" off their debut album Funeral. Again, the Arcade Fire might be a little more stylized than what Rachel is used to, but Greg hopes she will appreciate their epic sound.

A week later, the patient returns. Rachel relays that she is feeling a bit better, but is not totally cured. She realized that some of the Wilco and Arcade Fire songs were actually already in her iTunes collection without her even knowing it. Rachel enjoyed both albums, but not completely from beginning to end. She liked the more anthemic songs on Funeral like "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Crown of Love," but found some of the tracks a little noisy. However nothing was as noisy as Wilco's 15-minute experimental jam "Less Than You Think." But, even Jim and Greg agree that it's OK to skip past that“test”to more traditional pop/rock compositions like "Theologians" and "The Late Greats." Rachel doesn‘t think she’s replaced her favorite standards, but looks forward to keeping up with these two bands and getting more new music like… The Shins (up next in the show).

Go to episode 61
features

Instrumental: Rickenbacker Electric 12-String Guitar

Rickenbacker 12-string This week, we kick off a new feature called Instrumental where we examine the history of iconic instruments of rock. We start with the electric 12-string guitar and its most famous manufacturer, Rickenbacker. After the acoustic 12-string guitar was popularized by blues artists like Lead Belly and by the '60s folk revival, Rickenbacker began making an electrified version. After George Harrison used it on The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," a 12-string craze began. The most notable adopter of the instrument was Jim (later Roger) McGuinn , who used it to define the sound of The Byrds on tracks like "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" The Beatles and The Byrds set the template for countless bands in the ensuing decades who used 12-strings, from power pop acts like Raspberries and Big Star, to jangle pop bands like R.E.M. and The Bangles, to contemporary artists like Temples.

To help discuss and demonstrate the Rickenbacker electric 12-string, we're joined by Daniel Escauriza and Shelby Pollard of Chicago Music Exchange. Jim and Greg also offer their favorite examples of Rick-heavy songs: "Awaken" by Yes and XTC's "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)."

Go to episode 601

Hooked On Sonics: Judy Collins

Judy Collins Folksinger Judy Collins has been releasing music continuously since 1961, scoring hits with renditions of "Both Sides Now," "Suzanne," "Amazing Grace," "Send in the Clowns," and more. Her new album is Everybody Knows, a collaboration with Stephen Stills (who wrote "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" about her decades ago). But in the latest installment of our Hooked on Sonics series, Collins goes back to the beginning of her musical life and shares the song that got her into folk music: a version of "The Whistling Gypsy," aka "The Gypsy Rover," from The Black Knight, a 1954 Arthurian film starring Alan Ladd.

Go to episode 620
news

Music News

Many recent news stories have been about the music industry struggling to change its current paradigm. This week is no exception. With the rise of digital music distribution, the need to pay money for a hard disc no longer seems so great. So, the question is: how will musicians continue to make money? Tim Fite's answer is,“I won't.”The Anti- recording artist has decided to make his latest album, Over the Counter Culture, available for free on his website. Jim and Greg talk to the musician, who can be described as an intersection between De La Soul, Beck and the folk singers of O Brother Where Art Thou, about his decision not to use his label's resources. Fite explains that the album is anti-commerce, so the album's distribution had to be as well. While Anti- probably hopes this freebie will fuel future for-pay-albums, Fite hopes this model can survive in the future.

Go to episode 65

Music News

The digital music era began years ago for most music consumers. But, the labels have been slow to catch up. Now Atlantic Records has announced that over half of its last quarter revenues are from digital sales. But, the bad news is that even though digital songs make up more than half the pie, the pie itself is much smaller than it used to be. In just a few years the music industry's total revenues have dropped from $15 billion to $10 billion. Jim and Greg predict these numbers will continue to dip.

One of the most disappointing selling records this year is proving to be Guns N' Roses new release Chinese Democracy. Fans have been waiting 17 years for the album, but it only reached number 3 on the Billboard chart with 261,000 copies sold. Lackluster album sales aren't the only thing on Axl Rose's mind. Now his thoughts are focused on Dr. Pepper. The soda company promised a free soda to everyone in America provided Guns N‘ Roses actually released an abum. They were prepared to make good on this offer, but their web server was a different story. After their site crashed, Axl and company took it upon themselves to act as consumer advocates and are threatening to sue Dr. Pepper. It appears that Axl has a litigious itch that he just can’t scratch.

Next up in the news Jim and Greg discuss the passing of singer and civil rights activist Odetta. The classically trained vocalist found her voice in the folk music movement of the 1950's. She inspired countless musicians including Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and sang at the historic 1963 March on Washington. To honor Odetta's memory Jim and Greg play "Jack O'Diamonds."

Go to episode 158

Music News

Phil Everly died on January 3 at age 74 and as Jim explains, modern music wouldn't be what it is without The Everly Brothers making the connection between country, hillbilly folk and rock ‘n’ roll. It was Phil who hit the high harmony, inspiring countless vocal groups like The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and The Beach Boys. And you can hear this timeless, forlorn cry in songs like "When Will I Be Loved" from 1960. Don't bother with Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong's tribute to the brother duo, which recently received a Trash It rating from Jim and Greg. But, do check out efforts by The Chapin Sisters and Dawn McCarthy and Bonny“Prince”Billy.

Go to episode 424