Get Back

So, my eMusic downloads refreshed on birthday eve and I hadn't posted about what I got this month yet, so here it is.

The Hackensaw Boys - Get Some

First off, this album brings to light a little-known fact about me: I am in love with bluegrass music. Well, at least when it's played as rockingly as these boys play it. I've tried to find similar bluegrass bands, i.e. ones that don't sound bo-ring and academic, ones that rock, but the only other band that's on par with the Boys would have to be the Old Crow Medicine Show,* whose Big Iron World I downloaded last month (And it's good. Maybe better than their debut, O.C.M.S. Tough call cuz it's a solid album. I mean, how can you hate on a band that has lyrics like "If you don't believe that cocaine's good/Ask Karl Rove or Elijah Wood"? - from their reworking of the traditional song "Take Whiff On Me," which, by the way, the White Stripes cover on their excellent live DVD, Under Blackpool Lights but this little parenthetical aside has really gone on too long, so I'll just stop. Okay. Done.).

Out of the two, I prefer the Boys, mainly because O.C.M.S. comes across as guys who have a love for the music, but aren't as tied to it as the Boys are. I mean, the Boys named their tour bus "the Dirty Bird," so they're legit as far as I'm concerned. They're O.C.M.S's smelly little brothers, I guess. We saw the Boys when they played between sets during the 2002 Unlimited Sunshine Tour and, well, I was blown away. I'm not unfamiliar with roots music, as my dad has a love for folk/country-tinged 70's rock (uh, my name's Robert Dylan, as in Bob Dylan fercryeye, and I own the entire Old 97's catalog, everything Ryan Adams has produced either solo or with Whiskeytown - including the sucky stuff like 29, wow, that album's boring - so yeah, I like a particular type of country music, I guess), but to hear this old, rootsy music delivered so forcefully, and with so much joy, well, I haven't been that moved by a type of music since I heard the first Clash album back in the day.

I mean, there they are, something like 8 guys all huddled around a single microphone singing songs about how Nashville broke their hearts and minds while they hammer away at banjos, mandolins, washboards, stand-up basses and the voices the God gave them. How can that not move you?

In fact going back to the Clash connection, bluegrass has a lot in common with punk music: It's immediate, street-level, real (when done right) and developed by lower-/working-class people to vent their frustrations with the world around them - whether it's by dancing as in the case of bluegrass, or well, beating the snot out of each other in the case of punk.

Anyway, is Get Some any good? Well, yeah. Of course. It's the Hackensaw Boys. I'm not going to call it a masterpiece (that would, however, be applicable to Keep It Simple, their 2002 release), but it's solid, dirty, rocking bluegrass that is guaranteed to put some pep in yr step and some pride in yr stride. And that's a fact.

A.C. Newman - The Slow Wonder

Let's be honest, this is, ostensibly another New Pornographers album. I mean, Neko Case is even all over the backing vocal tracks, and that's never a bad thing (Girl. Can. Sing. For. Reals.). In fact, I wish I'd heard it before I heard the last one from the N.P. - Twin Cinema. I probably would have been a little more immediately smitten by it rather than having to try really hard to look past the saggy bits for the throbbing muscle that lies beneath Cinema.

I guess a lot of why this album and Cinema don't click with me immediately has a lot to do with precedent. If you're going to produce two albums of mind-blowing, solid, unrelenting pop music (Mass Romantic and Electric Version), don't give me an album that's only half-full of aforementioned pop and expect me to warm to it stat.

That said, Wonder is a perfectly good album. Not my favorite album ever, but there's a lot of really good songs in here - "the Town Halo," "Miracle Drug," "On the Table," are all really good, and that's just off the top of my head. In any case, it's worth the listen whether or not you're a fan of Newman's other, more famous band.

Also, I should note that I think the cover is pretty cool.

M. Ward - The Transfiguration of Vincent

I've already gushed about M. Ward. He's just an amazing musician and if you haven't checked him out yet, well, you're a dirty, filthy Commie and you are hereby cut off. No more funny for you. Now come on, We're through. Close your browser and go sit in a corner somewhere and think about what you've done. No sobbing. This is your choice. It's hurting me more than it's hurting you. I like pie.

Just kidding. We're still homies.

But seriously, check him out if you haven't. This is the predecessor to his lauded (and rightly so) Transistor Radio, which was one of my favorite albums of recent years. It's a lot more polished and sure than his debut, The End Of Amnesia and even includes one of Ward's trademarked covers: a spooky rendition of David Bowie's "Let's Dance."

I am totally M. Ward's street team. Dude rules. Nuff said.

Anyway, so that's that. Three cheers for new music. If anybody out there wants a free eMusic trial, e-mail me and I will hook you up. Because I'm a homie like that. Ans because it's a cool service. And because I get free downloads if you sign up. Sorry, I know I have a problem, but... enable me.

Edit: When I was talking about good roots/bluegrass music, I forgot to mention the indomitable Langhorne Slim. I just put on his When the Sun's Gone Down album and it's some rollicking good stuff. Plus, dude's got a great name.

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