Tag Archives: alt-country

Mid-week Mixtape Redux: Jack Carty

One of the great delights of hosting a radio program like In The Pines is that I get to talk with a lot of musicians about their craft, as well as find out what songs/ artists/ albums make them tick. As a lifelong sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Song Disorder (that would be – the repeated listening to one song over and over and over and over, so as to get inside and know it and breathe it) I am fascinated to learn the songs that other songwriters have an enduring affection for. With that in mind, I’m reviving a long forgotten but much loved section of the blog that asks songwriters to write about five of their favourite tunes: The Mid-week Mixtape. 
Our first contributor is an impressive young troubadour from Sydney, Australia: Jack Carty. He writes beautiful,  thoughtful folk songs with the slightest hint of country thrown in for good measure. His latest album, Break Your Own Heart is, literally, a heartbreaker. 
Here is Jack performing the album’s title track:
And here is the mix he kindly put together for In The Pines this week. Cue heartbreak (again). 
The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! – Sufjan Stevens
I can’t even remember how I found out about Sufjan Stevens. But it was sometime in 2008 or early 2009 and I remember listening to the album Illinois every time I could for the next year solid. I love the instrumentation and the epic scope of the arrangements. It’s bombastic but still classy and so full of feeling. I don’t think there is anywhere on the record that this is is better exhibited than right here… Gotta love the counterpoint.
Left & Leaving – The Weakerthans.
I first heard this song on a live album recorded at The Burton Cummings Theatre in their home town of Winnepeg, Manitoba. It has one of the most biting lyrics I have ever heard and John K Samson’s voice always sounds really sincere to me. He uses amazing imagery to describe his inner and outer environment in a really engaging and moving way. It’s so sad, but so resigned… “I wait in four/four time, count yellow highway lines, that you’re relying on to lead you home” – that line has swum around in my head for days at a time.
Gillian Welch – Wrecking Ball
I love pretty much everything Gillian Welch does. This track has so much attitude (from the sloppily played drums and fuzzbox guitars to the scratchy fiddle soloing in the right channel throughout its entirety) that it would be cool even if it didn’t have one of the best journey(wo)man lyrics I ever heard. She makes it sound easy, like she isn’t even trying, it’d almost be frustrating if it wasn’t so good.
Elliott Smith – Pitseleh
I love the way this song is simultaneously filled with so much sadness and so much love. It drips with doubt, loneliness, pain and an honest, quiet, beautiful affection. I have always loved the way Elliott seems to play the guitar like you would a piano, with a heavy emphasis on a constantly moving and repeated “bass line”  underneath delicate ornamentations on the higher strings. It seems to lend a timeless, almost baroque feel to an already gorgeously timeless and moving sentiment. This song has helped me through a lot.
Bright Eyes – Classic Cars
Connor Oberst’s ultra poetic turn of phrase, Mike Mogis’ guitar flourishes, a rad bass line, Hammond organ, honky-tonk piano, a great story, some questionable backing vocals and most of all those buildups in the chorus! The first time I heard this I listened to it 5 times in a row, the opening stanza of the opening verse had me hooked. It is delicate, angry, political, upbeat and incredibly deep all at once. It’s a classic, man.

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Filed under OPINION

Beat the Drum: Americana adventures at triple j

Last week I had a great surprise. No, I didn’t win Lotto or wake up with the sudden ability to tap-dance. Fingers crossed those surprises are still to come. But I was asked to guest program an alt-country special for triple j’s Roots N All program. Going to air every Thursday night from 10pm, Roots N All is a three-hour specialist program that is broadcast nationally. It was a huge honour to be asked to host the show and putting it all together was a blast, so big love to the wonderful folk at triple j who made it happen and also to all the listeners who tuned in on the night.

If you missed the show, you can stream it here up until this Thursday July 28.

Additionally, you can also check out the playlist on triple j’s website.

Some highlights from the show included brand new music from Wilco, Dawes, Vetiver, Those Darlins and Tiny Ruins. I also played some old favourites like Ryan Adams and Silver Jews, country covers legends The Pigs reworking Beyonce and two songs with ‘Motherfucker’ in the title. Good times.


Filed under NEW MUSIC

A Spoonful of Sugar: Old Crow Medicine Show at the Factory Theatre

Band: Old Crow Medicine Show
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Gig: Factory Theatre, Sydney
Date: Saturday, March 27th
Photos: Kerri Ambler

Marrickville’s dim lit industrial fringe is even more dim this evening. It’s just gone past eighty-thirty and Earth Hour has plunged Sydney into darkness. With few streetlights on and the few homes scattered in the concrete clad factory streets lit by candles, the sky is a cloudy grey against an unseasonably warm March evening. The darkness, the grey slab buildings, the abandoned quiet, it’s not exactly the right atmosphere for an old-timey, bluegrass ho-down. But that’s okay. If I close my eyes I’m somewhere in the American south, in a button down blouse, outside a rundown bar and about to see Old Crow Medicine Show.

For the uninitiated, how best to describe OCMS? They make the kind of music you imagine old-school banjo slinging dudes from a different time and place playing at barn dances and porch sing-a-longs. It’s a raw, authentic, down home sound. Fiddle, blues harp, flat-picked guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonies so sweet and sad and uplifting it is easy to forget you’re in an industrial wasteland in Sydney’s inner-west.

More than ten years since the band were discovered busking on the streets of North Carolina, the group are back in Australia for the second time in just under year, having finally started to build a dedicated fan base Down Under. And dedicated they are. The audience is diverse, young and old, fresh faced and haggard, all keen to catch some Old Crow magic. Check-shirted alt-country city boys blend with genuine country folk who’ve travelled up from regional Victoria just to see the show. There are girls in cowboy boots, men in dungarees and women old enough to be my mother screaming like teenagers as band leader Ketch Secor swaggers onto the stage and greets us in his butter-wouldn’t-melt southern drawl.

For just over two hours (with an interval midway from which they all return looking suitably wired) the Old Crow boys take us to the heart of the American south and we hoot and holler accordingly. The band have been to charm school and work their way through an eclectic set list of party tunes and heartbreakers with ease. ‘Down Home Girl’, ‘I Hear Them All’ and ‘Caroline’ stir the crowd into polite sing-a-longs before ‘Cocaine’ and ‘Wagon Wheel’ sway us into a rousing chorus ready for more. When the show comes to its inevitable close, the crowd stumbles out into the Marrickville night and heads where all nights of this kind inevitably end, Newtown’s Town Hall Hotel. Every single one of us wishes we were drinking whiskey out back of the Factory with the band. But in the absence of the band, we fondle our beers and reminisce and already start to talk about when we’ll get to see them again.


Filed under GIG REVIEWS

Time for some Old Crow Medicine

After months on the road as part of the alt-country wet dream that is Dave Rawlings Machine, the boys from Old Crow Medicine Show are giving up what could be the world’s sweetest old-time/bluegrass tour bus for a stint on the road on their lonesome in Australia.

It’s sad news for Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, who will no doubt miss the fine contribution the Old Crow gang have made to the band over the past twelve months. But it’s great news for Australian fans of OCMS. What’s that you say? A second tour here in just under a year?

I spoke to the band’s frontman Ketch Secor this week about his newfound role in the ‘machine’, old school vs new school country and that ol’ man who so many call their biggest influence, Bobby Dylan.

The Old Crow Medicine collaboration with Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch for Dave Rawlings Machine is one of the finest things to happen to Americana for quite some time and it’s a damn shame we won’t be seeing them live here soon as well. In the meantime though, there are quite a few good videos of the band playing songs from the Machine debut A Friend of A Friend online inlcuding this version of the Ryan Adams/ Dave Rawlings co-write ‘To Be Young Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High’.

Australian tour dates for OCMS can be found here.

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