Chatham County Line – Tightrope
In return for the suggestion of St. Paul & the Broken Bones below, I suggested that my friend listen to The Secret Sisters. He countered by suggesting Chatham County Line, a bluegrass act who has been around for a while but who I’ve never given a try until now. They seem to know their way around their instruments and also how to pen a compelling song. They don’t seem to go for full-on instrumental breakdowns like Nickel Creek, but they’re pleasant to listen to. I might go with said friend to see them in concert in August.
Sean Watkins – All I Do Is Lie
I commented when reviewing Fiction Family and Nickel Creek’s most recent records that Sean Watkins seems more confident as a sideman than as a frontman. His material tends to get overshadowed by the songs penned by his bandmates. He hasn’t flown solo for an entire album since 2006, and it seems he’s compiled a wealth of strange ideas on the meantime, which are just as prone to show off his fast-fingered acoustic guitar playing as they are to wander into strange and disorienting realms unlike anything he’d attempt with either of the aforementioned bands. Even though the material is hit and miss, I like that this guy’s hard to pin down. And I have to sort of wince and yet sort of agree with him as he explores his ongoing issues with the Christian subculture in the hard-hitting song “The God You Serve”.
Jimi Goodwin – Odludek
Doves have been on hiatus for four years now, which is annoying, because it happened just as I was really starting to get into their back catalogue. I have no clue what the Williams twins are up to these days, but lead singer Jimi Goodwin has struck out on his own with this release (and he’s been touring with Elbow, just because we all needed to have an even harder time telling the difference between his voice and Guy Garvey’s). “Strange” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Doves had their experimental impulses on every record, but there was usually a kick-ass rhythm section to anchor most of it. Without that, Jimi is free to throw just about anything at the wall and see what sticks, which leads to downright disorienting fare like the horn-driven freakshow “Man V Dingo”. That might be the most extreme outlier on the album, but a lot of these tracks were hard to stomach on first listen. Even if some of them strike me as genius as I get deeper into them, I can’t see myself recommending this one to a lot of other folks.
Weird Al Yankovic – Mandatory Fun
A slight improvement over Alpocalypse, but Weird Al is definitely at his best when he can get his parodies out the door in a timely manner. Since this is the last album on his contract, perhaps having to wait 2-3 years to release a parody of something current will no longer be an issue.
Anberlin – Lowborn
The final chapter in a discography that’s been remarkably consist ever since their debut just over a decade ago. While I wouldn’t rank it as high as my two all-time favorite Anberlin albums, Cities and Vital, this lean-and-mean collection does manage to continue the electronic experimentation that worked well on Vital while bring back more of a variety of tempos and song styles as heard on Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, to which this one feels like a bit of a companion piece, mood-wise. I’m stoked to see them in concert one last time this October!
Jars of Clay – 20
It’s an absolute treat to hear a favorite band revisit their entire discography, leaving almost no stone unturned as they celebrate a milestone anniversary. These mostly acoustic remakes of fan favorite songs are a delightful walk down memory lane, and hopefully they will demonstrate the diversity of the Jars catalogue to new listeners, as well as old fans who never really kept up with them past the first few albums.