New Album: Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy - Dirtflowers

Til Willis is one of the most prolific and consistent Lawrence songwriters and he is putting out a new album early next month with his band Erratic Cowboy. Til's music is good old fashioned rock n roll with a healthy mix of blues, country, punk, and folk thrown in the mix. Til & Erratic Cowboy's new album, Dirtflowers, is his 13th studio album and his fourth with Erratic Cowboy. Dirtflowers spans 11 tracks and is out digitally and physically (CD & Vinyl!) on December 6th.

I tend to latch on to opening tracks of albums for a few different reasons. The first being the obvious that it's usually the first song you hear from the record unless you've been checking out pre-released singles. I have a sneaking feeling that most bands purposely put strong songs to kick off the album. I also tend to gravitate towards them also as a intro into what story an album is going to try and tell. All that noted my early favorite song on Dirtflowers is definitely the opening track 'A Better Depression'. It's got a fantastic baseline and acoustic guitar to start the song. Add in Til's low growl and the horns that kick in about a minute into the track and I was sold.

I believe Dirtflowers is without a doubt Til's best work that I've heard. Songs like the Replacements-esque rocker 'American Questions' and 'I Bring the Rain' are also highlights of the first half of the record. The second half is just as good though and that is one of the most impressive things about Til's new album...the whole thing is really solid from front to back. 'Outlast the Moon' has some really strong lyrics and the chorus is an earworm while the track 'When It Happens' has my favorite guitar riff on the record. There is just a ton to enjoy and dig into on Dirtflowers.

The album closes with another great song in 'Paper Cranes'. It opens with the lyric "I'll never live up to all the love that's been heaped on me unless I pass it on to you" which I assume (possibly incorrectly) is referencing being a father. This kind of stuff hits me hard and when it's coupled with some awesome guitar playing you have a really standout album closer.

Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy will be celebrating the release of Dirtflowers at the Kaw Valley Public House in Lawrence this Saturday, December 7th at 9PM. Don't miss it.



New Album: Jason Hawk Harris - Love & the Dark

I'm not going to pretend I know what country radio is or isn't playing these days. You'd think guys like Cody Jinks, Chris Stapleton, and Tyler Childers would be ruling the radio since they're selling out giant rooms all over the country. Hearing Jason Hawk Harris for the first time made me think he'd have some clear country radio hits, but if those guys can't get on the radio, why would he?

Jason Hawk Harris is originally from Houston but resides in LA now. His music has a bit of both places intertwined into his debut album. It's a country record no doubt but there are orchestral elements and a lot of rock n roll influence as well that doesn't make it so easy to pigeonhole it into one genre. You may find some typical country tropes here but the opening track ('The Smoke and the Stars') and the album closer ('Grandfather') are great examples of where Harris's music transcends the genre.



Five New Songs I'm Digging

Since summer is here and concert season in the area is getting really busy, I wanted to try and ramp up posting here again. To begin here are a few songs I've been obsessed with early this summer.

Lillie Mae - 'You've Got Other Girls For That'

One of my most anticipated albums of the summer is Lillie Mae's Other Girls, out 8/16 on Third Man Records. Here debut album is one of my favorite country records of the past few years. The first single off the record is an earworm that I've been spinning at least a few times a day.

Tyler Ramsey - 'A Dream Of Home'

This song just feels like a musical warm blanket to me. I caught Tyler & My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel recently at a tiny place in Kansas City and it was amazing. His album, For The Morning is a severely underrated album of 2019 so far.

Orville Peck - 'Roses Are Falling'

What I initially thought was just some kitschy country co-opting bullshit turns out to be one of my favorite records (country or otherwise) of 2019. Orville Peck's Pony is haunting and brilliant and I can't say enough wonderful things about it. His show in KC this fall is my most anticipated of the year.

Big Thief - 'Cattails'

Another one of my favorite albums of 2019 is Big Thief's new one U.F.O.F. They've now put out three brilliant albums in a row with each one possibly being better than the last. My favorite off the newest one is 'Cattails'.

Hatchie - 'Her Own Heart'

I really do love dreampop and shoegaze so when someone like Hatchie comes along and combines both quite nicely I'll take notice. This whole album is really solid as well.



Upcoming Show: Kelly Finnigan @ Record Bar

Another show that flew under my radar until recently is Kelly Finnigan appearing at Record Bar next Tuesday, May 28th. Finnigan (also a member of Monophonics) released his first solo album, The Tales People Tell on Colemine Records earlier this year.

Kelly's debut solo album is already one of my top five albums of 2019 and doesn't look like it will likely be knocked down anytime soon. The Tales People Tell is one of those new soul albums that sound like it could have been recorded any time in the past 50 years. It's got that vintage sound that is timeless and really stunning. I highly recommending picking it up and I also recommend getting yourself to Record Bar on Tuesday to see Kelly bring these songs to life with his band The Atonements in front of an audience where they'll likely get the room moving like rarely before. 



Show Tonight: Charley Crockett & Joshua Ray Walker @ The Granada

One of the most promising songwriters in country music today is Joshua Ray Walker. Not since John Moreland have I heard an artist whose songs and lyrics immediately affected me like Walker. Just listen to the lead track off his new album, Wish You Were Here, called 'Canyon'. It's a fantastic songs and just touches on how good he is once you listen to the whole album. Walker will be at The Granada tonight opening for Charlie Crockett.

I don't know as much about Crockett but I've been digging into his catalog since finding out Joshua Ray was opening up for him. His music moves back and forth between blues and country and I have to admit, the country stuff is pretty damn good. Just check out his really solid cover of the famous country tune 'That's How I Got To Memphis' below.



Columbia's Roots, Blues & BBQ Festival Announces Lineup

I'm getting a little too old for the festivals I use to try and attend with some regularity in my 20's. However, after attending the 2018 festival, I'll definitely be trying to make a yearly pilgrimage to Columbia, Missouri at the end of September for the Roots, Blues & BBQ festival.

They announced the 2019 lineup on Friday and it's a really good one. There's plenty to like from the headliners all the way down to the smallest row of local acts. I'm always excited to see Jason Isbell, The New Pornographers, Amanda Shires and Ben Harper again but I'm most excited for the acts I've never seen before. John Prine, Lukas Nelson, Patty Griffin, and Doug Kershaw are all at the top of that list for me.

I reviewed the three day festival last year and raved about how much we enjoyed it, so don't miss out!



Show Review: Durand Jones & The Indications at Record Bar

On Saturday night the folks that packed the sold out Record Bar were treated to one of the best shows they're likely to see all year. Durand Jones & The Indications are touring behind their fantastic sophomore album, American Love Call, and they showed what an impressive live force they are. The Indications are a really tight band that provide a fantastic background for Durand Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer to shine on vocals. Durand is a true band leader and puts on a frontman show reminiscent of James Brown or Marvin Gaye. At numerous points in time Jones was singing from his knees, flat on his back, or sitting off to the side and letting his band shine. The secret weapon of The Indications though is Frazer. Not only does he absolutely kill it on the drums but his falsetto vocals on songs like 'Is It Any Wonder', which received one of the biggest crowd reactions of the evening, are breathtaking.
The band played most of their two albums and peppered a few well placed covers in the set as well. A sped up version of Curtis Mayfields '(Don't Worry) If There Is A Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go' was a highlight of the night as well as their show closing cover of The Beatles 'Don't Let Me Down'.

This will likely be the smallest venue Durand Jones & The Indications will play in Kansas City and for good reason. With two strong albums in their catalog and a voracious live show, hopefully they get the huge recognition they deserve.

Openers Ginger Root described themselves as "aggressive elevator soul" and to be honest I can't come up with a better descriptor. They were a lot of fun and I hope to catch them again soon.



Upcoming Show: Durand Jones & The Indications

One of the shows we're most excited about in the entire month of April is Durand Jones & The Indications. They're a throwback to the soul and R&B music made famous in the 50's through the 70's but don't let that make you think it's stale or a rehash. Their music sounds fresh and inspired and from what I've seen of their live performances on YouTube, they put on a killer show as well.

Their new album, American Love Call, came out last month and is already towards the top of my favorite albums of 2019. The combination of Jones's soulful voice and drummer/vocalist Aaron Frazer's beautiful falsetto makes for some outstanding harmonies and songwriting. The album touches on politics, love, heartbreak and everything in-between. I liked their self-titled debut album, but American Love Call is on a whole different level of greatness.

Durand Jones & The Indications will be at Record Bar on Saturday night, April 6th. There is no excuse for you to miss this show. Check out the video for the track 'Don't You Know' below and I'll see you at Record bar on Saturday.



Listen to Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers has officially taken over my musical life. My family is sick of me spinning her records and playing her videos. With the release of her fabulous solo record, Stranger In The Alps, in late 2017 she appeared on my radar and hasn't left since. The album is worth revisiting on it's own merits alone, but Bridgers has continued to make really fantastic music with a couple of other projects as well that are worthy of mentioning. Before we move on here is one of the standout tracks from 2017's Stranger In The Alps, 'Motion Sickness':

I don't want to write this without mentioning the elephant in the room. 'Motion Sickness' was admittedly written about Ryan Adams long before the damning NYT story came out recently documenting his abuses. However the song bears new weight after reading how Adams treated Bridgers specifically. I've been a long time Ryan Adams fan, but hopefully others like me will turn their attention to the music of someone much more worthy of it in Bridgers.

The moment Bridgers went from a notable new artist to an obsession for me was the release of the "supergroup" boygenius EP that came out in 2018. I'd already been a big fan of Julien Baker and knew a bit about Lucy Dacus but I had no idea how much I'd love the songs the three of them made together. The whole EP is just flawless...here is my favorite track 'Salt In The Wound':

Bridgers continued this year with the release of Better Oblivion Community Center's debut self-titled album with Conor Oberst. The album is another really solid effort and really shows that Bridger is as prolific as she is talented.