It’s not the trashy mustache John McCauley usually wears (not pictured). It’s not the raucousness during shows, the fact that he oversleeps for interviews, or even our shared RI connection. It’s the fact that, after all’s said and done, “The Black Dirt Sessions” is still one of the best alt-country albums we’ve ever heard. Composed of Ian O’Neil, Chris Ryan, and Dennis Ryan, their brilliant debut “War Elephant” put them on the national stage, and for all its merits, we’re arguing “Black Dirt” is even better. With a mostly acoustic setup, it’s dark, crushing, and absolutely fantastic. McCauley’s agitated voice and a piano sounds, well,Read More →

Justin Ringle is a nice guy. As the lead singer/ songwriter for Portland, Oregon’s Horse Feathers, we are impressed not only with his general niceness, but with his delicate vocals, lush instrumentation, and sense of beauty on “Thistled Spring.” Speaking of instruments, his band, which consists of Nathan Crockett, Sam Cooper, and Catherine Odell must have a couple buses of instruments between the three of them (that’s Crockett bowing a saw in the yellow shirt). It’s their collective talent that crafts a kind of folk that’s so gorgeous, it’s an occasion in and of itself to sit down and listen to it. “Starving Robins” andRead More →

It’s funky, it’s infectious, it’s none other than Kamtin Mohager’s Chain Gang of 1974 (see vampire at right). The Denver, CO native breaks out all the stops for a perfect blend of punk/dance/pop explosion that is the solo debut “White Guts.” We’ve cranked up “STOP” on the sound system for more than half the year, a beat-driven psychediscopunkadelic opener that layers choruses and simply doesn’t relent. While you’re at it, you might as well put on “F’n Head,” a bass-heavy, tangled mass of electronica that damn well makes you punk out your f-ing head. The ten tracks here play fun and tough throughout, and theRead More →

True soul singers are tough to come by. So when we finally heard about Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings, we were a bit skeptical. “Yeah,” we thought, “but can she really sing the part?” Thankfully, she can. Sophomore album “I Learned the Hard Way” is coursing through with soul, body, too, and is the kind of album we were dreaming of since Motown had its day. It’s tough to pick only a few highlight tracks, considering the whole album truly is fantastic, but try on “Mama Don’t Like My Man” and the title track. If you’re still not convinced after listening to those tracks, thenRead More →