Indian Ocean (CD)

Using Al Green's former backing band, The Hi Rhythm Section, with melodious, mellow horns and splashes of jazzy, organ sparkle, former folkie Frazey Ford has reinvented herself into the 21st century progenitor of the blue-eyed soul sound of the '70s. Her wispy, almost childlike folk vocals easily could have gotten lost in the Stax-like sound, but the arrangements are soft and delicate. "September Fields" almost makes you think it's going to be a coffee shop acoustic set before suddenly an organ sneak attack pops up from behind. The tragic ballad of "Weather Pattern" is the raw, tear-filled ballad most musicians don't have the spirit to sing without sounding hackneyed or hollow, but Ford nails it so gorgeously and almost effortlessly. Indian Ocean's amalgamation of funk and folk work so harmoniously, you'll be asking why can't more musicians blend things beautifully like this?

Read more
And The War Came (CD)

Alejandro Rose-Garcia's second album under the name Shakey Graves is the kind of music that keeps Austin weird and retains its Texan flavor. And the War Came is a blissful late-night drive of FM country ballads buzzing out of the busted stereo of your old car. Surprisingly minimal, Shakey Graves, armed with his guitar, whiskey-pitched vocals and foot-stomping percussion, gives country-rock an edge of millennial hipness lacking from most contemporary acts, but without any of the ironic distance. His sincere approach comes through in the feelings of love and joy he has for the country culture around him. The album's single, a duet with Esmé Patterson called "Dearly Departed," recalls Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris on the legendary album, Desire. Shakey's voice drenched in whiskey and beer harmonizes in a swirl of Beauty and the Beast against Patterson's sweet, melodious twang. The sparseness of "If Not For You" with just a man and his guitar feels more like Depression Era hobo folk where someone pours out through the soul not for money or recognition, but because they know no way to keep it in. For those who think "country music isn't for me," they should blast some Shakey Graves in their car and see how he's keeping Texas the hub for interesting country.

Read more
The Soul Of All Natural Things (CD)

A legend of Topanga Canyon folk, Linda Perhacs returns with her first album in more than 40 years. She’s been living life as a dentist while an Internet-age cult built around her New Age-folk album Parallelograms, with Devendra Bahart asking her to appear on his album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Modern acolytes like Julia Holter and Nite Jewel (aka Ramona Gonzalez) help out here, helping transform compositions like “River of God” into stunning, swirling pools of layered vocals, softly plucked acoustic guitars and light touches or organ and backward guitar. Songs like “Daybreak” are simple and beautiful, seeming to well up with light as they progress, while songs like “Intensity” are more directly strange and alluring, combining New Agey aphorisms (“We are in the rhythm of an energy sea,” for instance) with exciting polyrhythms, woven strands of vocals and intriguing musical touches that seem to spill out perfectly. It’s a similar story to Animal Collective’s work with Vashti Bunyan a few years back, and similarly, The Sound of All Things is a complete triumph.

Read more