This week’s guest is Stephen Cramer, who is a music promoter and not a musician, BUT we did an extra episode this week with Chad Cochran, who has shot a bunch of photographs of Americana Musicians for his series “I Didn’t Want to Tell You.” I’m going to highlight some of those instead!
1. “Dyin'” – Elizabeth Cook: One of the things I love about the current crop of Americana stars is their obsession with great guitar sounds. Check out the solo in this track. Everything about this song sounds pretty great to me.
2. “Black Leaf” – John Paul White: Formerly half of the Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars, John Paul White continues to write great songs that feel like tiny movies. If I had to guess what Elliot Smith would have sounded like if he’s been from Alabama, this would be my guess.
3. “All I Know” – Lydia Loveless: Lydia was the breakout artist for Chad Cochran as a portrait photographer. She’s a brutally honest writer and fearless performer. I’d really like to see live and be in her world for a while.
4. “Shine On” – Steve Poltz: I first heard of Steve Poltz through Chad’s “I Didn’t Want to Tell You” photos from No Depression’s Fall Wellness issue. I tabbed through a bunch of his songs, and ended up settling on this one because it feels to me like Shawn Mullins rhapsodizing over Ry Cooder’s soundtrack from Paris, Texas. Atmospheric and kind.
5. “Depressive State” – Jaimee Harris: Another artist I discovered from Chad’s photos. I LOVE this song. It feels like a telegram from the future to me from ten years ago. “Will I ever be ok?/And not someone that everyone hates?” Jaimee’s voice is like a black velvet painting of Loretta Lynn. So glad I found this song.
6. “Carolina Ghost” – Caleb Caudle: Caleb Caudle was one of the first artists Chad shot because of their mutual acquaintance Sloane Spencer of the Country Fried Rock podcast. This song has Wurlitzer electric piano AND pedal steel, so it’d have to go really wrong for me to hate it.
7. “Certain Slant of Light” – Vigilantes of Love: I referenced this song in my interview with Chad. You can hear the interview I did with Bill Mallonee back in episode 22.
“Tell me your deep, dark secret
Yeah, and I will tell you mine
Oh, is that your deep, dark secret?
Oh well, never mind”
8. “Broken Man” – Chris Canterbury: A fellow Chicken Ranch Records artist, I heard an upcoming unreleased track from Chris this week. It was just as great as his past work would lead you to expect. Here’s another portrait of a broken man with broken dreams, in a broken town. “The sun doesn’t shine on a broken man.”
9. “Keep the Homefires Burning” – Sarah Shook: Another “I Didn’t Want to Tell You” artist, I had a hard time picking a song of hers for this list, because they’re all so fully realized. A friend of mine dated a girl who’d crack the top on a fifth and toss it out of the window of the car, because “We’re not gonna need that again.” Sarah’s Appalachian yelp of a singing voice reminds me of that girl in many, many ways.
10. “All Strung Out Like Christmas Lights” – Elizabeth Cook and Boo Ray: One more tune by Elizabeth Cook and my friend Boo Ray, who was a guest on Episode 15. There are few genres of music I enjoy more than playing Western Swing, and I would love to sit in on this tune some time. If the truest part of art is in the tiny details, “All strung out like Christmas lights/on a low country, hot summer night,” is right down the middle. Nice work, everybody.