Compact Capsules by Dan Ferguson
Country music, and we're not talking what passes today for the commercial variety, comes in many flavors. Two ends of the spectrum are in this week's Ear Bliss spotlight.
Ernest Jenning Records
Even with the oft-times lush orchestration, the clatter and clang that fills the grooves of Outside from Brooklyn-based band O'Death takes what can best be described as Southern-laced music steeped in the old timey tradition and infuses it with a loose, ramshackle and almost industrial flare. Think Tom Waits meets punk jug band. Altogether, the various elements work well making for plenty of interesting sounds wrapped around creaky songs knee deep in the traditional themes of life, death and the pursuit of everything in between.
John Howie Jr & the Rosewood Bluff
Hands Up Records
Going back to the late 1990s and straight through to the first decade of this century, a Raleigh-based band called Two Dollar Pistols was finding that happy medium between hardcore honky tonk and Big Star-styled pop. At its helm was the curvy baritone of front man John Howie, Jr., a voice form fit for those who like their C&W straight up (and we're not talking that kind of Strait!). If you were lucky enough to discover one or more of the band's half dozen releases, you know what I mean. The hooks were plenty, the melodies catchy as flypaper, and the songwriting of Howie a drinking glass full of country pathos. Whereas Two Dollar Pistols are no more, Howie continues his intoxicating mix of the pedal steel-driven hard stuff with its pop-ish nods with his new band The Rosewood Bluff and debut recording called Leavin' Yesterday. It's an album that kicks hard and is some of the most real-deal twang pop these ears have heard during the last year. Visit www.reverbnation.com/rosewoodbluff.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 - 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.)