Here enters one C. M. Slenko with an album full of beautiful, somber songs. Slenko is on the Sioux Trails label, and like his labelmate that releases as Galápagos Finches he plays stripped down folk music. Perhaps more obviously influenced by the old blues and folk musicians that preceded him in that long tradition, he sings on topics they’d be familiar with, indeed that most anyone that sit around philosophizing for oneself should be aware of.
Rowland S. Howard – Sleep Alone
“First I shot down the stars because you said they ruled us.”
Rowland never cared about anyone being “good” at an instrument, he never thought he was a good guitar player, and he didn’t think that mattered. He said that what mattered was getting a good sound out of it. We lost him six years ago (Dec. 30th, 2009), and his music and his life remain a guiding light. This track is a powerhouse, equally terrifying and beautiful.
The Gun Club – Promise Me
The Gun Club, and Jeffrey Lee Pierce in particular, had such an amazing ability to take blues and inject it with a fever and an energy that hadn’t been seen since before the war. This track is tender and haunting.
Galápagos Finches – All Those Nights
Released our own Sioux Trails Records, this is two of my best friends doing what they do best. Henry Hyde wrote it, sings and plays rhythm, while Robert Redhouse plays the lead. Recorded on Robert’s family farm in Western Pennsylvania, just north of West Virginia.
The Modern Folk – Leather Jacket
What can be said about J. Moss & The Modern Folk? The man runs what I consider to be the most important music website on the internet today and releases a ton of great music on his own Practice Records. It was really hard to pick a track because of the quality and quantity of his output, but this is the first track from my favorite of his, so go listen to the rest.
Francis McKeys – Dinner in an Incubator
Francis is one of my oldest friends. A seer, sage, visionary, etc. Recently in a market in Philadelphia’s Chinatown he was approached by a stranger and was told that he is a “bearer of the circle.” His music reflects the mystery of his life. I highly recommend his album “The Angel Will Walk This Earth…” from which this selection was chosen.
Ellis Swan – Where the Road Ends
When I first heard about Ellis Swan I read that he is somewhat of a recluse. Living in the same city as him for over a year and never seeing him or catching a show, I can confirm this account. With the sound of his music, I would expect nothing else. Dark folk-noir, etc. Another one that you should just go listen to in full.
Veronica & the 2nd Floor Porches – Orange Fire-Vine
The one and only track by the 2nd Floor Porches, a one-woman band consisting soley of Veronica, another old friend of mine. As a poet and a prophet, it’s somehow fitting that her only release is wordless. We’re all waiting for a full length album, but I guess it’s hard to find time while you’re working in El Salvador & preparing to move to Switzerland in the New Year.
Hookworms – What We Talk About
I love this band and I love this song.
Songs:Ohia – Blue Chicago Moon
It’s been a little over 2 years since we lost Jason Molina and it’s still a bit hard to take. The man put out so much powerful music and, at the age of 39, it really didn’t seem like he was going to stop anytime soon. This song sustained me through a really difficult winter last year. There’s little in this world more comforting to me than hearing Molina sing:
“If the blues are you hunter
You will come face to face
With that darkness and desolation
And the endless, endless, endless, endless, endless, endless depression,
But you are not helpless —
I’ll help you to try to beat it.”
Raymond Byron & the White Freighter – Allegiance 2
This track is sort of an epilogue. The last track on the fantastic “Little Death Shaker” album, and what a great way to end a record or, for that matter, a mixtape. Ray, who has put out most of his work under the name Castanets, has had a huge impact on the way that I make music, and I fell in love with the way that his live shows have nothing to do with what the recordings sounded like — treating every song as the living word. I had the opportunity to open for Castanets back in 2007 in a warehouse in my hometown, which was a great honor. He seems to have disappeared as of late, but I hear he’s living up in Portland somewhere, so J, if you’re reading this, keep your eyes and ears open. If you see him say hello. I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, but we had a great, albeit short, conversation all those years ago, and his music has had a profound effect on my life. I can only hope to have that same kind of impact.