Posts Tagged ‘Erin O’Dowd’

Most folks are familiar with the cliche “where all the bodies are buried,” and understand that it’s a metaphor about knowing secrets. In my case, though, it’s more like I know where all the pot holes are – and I’m speaking literally. From sunken manhole covers to tire-killing craters, I know when and where to slide to the side to avoid a slew of unpleasant bumps regardless of how fast or slow traffic is going, and whether or not I can actually see beneath the car in front of me. Like others in countless communities across the country, I’ve been driving the same set of streets for the bulk of my life. Some take me to work, some to family and friends, and some to stores. No matter where I’m going, the odds are good that I’ve driven the same roads before.

Which leads to this: Just as my life’s trek was grooving along with minimal bumps, I’ve hit a stretch of ripped-up road: In the coming months, the OGC’s HQ will be transitioning from the Philly ‘burbs to North Carolina’s Durham region.

Yeah, I know. Talk about your major moves.

But the thing about a ripped-up road is this: It’s rarely ripped up for long. In this neck of the woods, the cause is usually due to PennDOT milling old asphalt before laying down a new batch. It’s temporary, in other words, and in time the ride will be better than before.

On Thursday, Diane and I drove down to explore the area. The small slice of Durham that we saw, the American Tobacco Historic District, reminded me of Philadelphia’s brick-laden Old City neighborhood, while the outlying communities of Cary and Chapel Hill conjured such Philly suburbs as Horsham, Warminster and Warrington. Carrboro – home to the legendary Cat’s Cradle – had a funkier, New Hope/South Street vibe. Each looked like a good place to call home.

Anyway, on the ride down and again on the ride north on Saturday, we listened to – what else? – music. But unlike years long ago, when one was at the mercy of the radio, or the tapes and CDs one remembered to bring, we simply clicked on Apple Music, picked a title, and hit play.

Our first agreed-upon choice: Diane Birch’s Bible Belt. The album (my top pick for 2009) has retained its original luster, and rightly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Carole King’s Tapestry – not that anyone but my Diane and I would say so, I suppose. It has a timeless vibe.

I should add that the Church of Birch pastor has a new single slated for release in the next week. Look for it. Buy it. She has a knack for writing songs that take up residence in the soul like few others.

My second choice: Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, which – thus far – rates as my favorite album of 2018. “Suspended in Time” is simply sublime, as is the album as a whole.

My third choice: Another of my favorites of this year, Erin O’Dowd’s Old Town. To quote my wife, “It’s excellent.” (There’s magic to be found in the album’s grooves.)

My last choice: the new Stone Foundation album, Everybody, Anyone, which I plan to review in full next week. It mixes a wide variety of influences into a very cool, original whole.

I’ve taken the turnpike, a toll road, every work day for the past 18 years, save for those occasions when I work from home, but I don’t have – nor do I want – E-ZPass. For those readers who aren’t from one of the 16 states that offer it, it’s basically an automated toll taker. You place a transponder on your windshield, pay into an account online, and then, when you drive through the correct entry or exit lane, the payment is instant. There’s no muss or fuss, and – theoretically speaking – no backed-up lines of cars at the toll plaza. (In practice, however, at least for the times I enter and exit, the E-ZPass lanes are often backed up even more than the cash lanes.) Pennsylvania, my state, also offers a discount vs. the cash option.

In other words, I generally see the same faces collecting tolls, and often trade quick talk about the weather, traffic and other stuff. “Hey buddy.” “There he is.” “How you doing?” “See you tomorrow.” “Have a great day.” “How ‘bout them Eagles?” Or, sometimes, “You’re later than usual.” I always thank them, and bid them a good day or night. It’s routine. It’s nice.

There’s a larger point I could make about the downside of automation, but that’s for another day. Rather, I’m sharing my toll booth tales for no other reason than this: More often than not, music – though not too loud, as I always turn it down – engulfs the background of those short conversations. And yesterday morning, one of those same faces commented, “You’re always listening to something good. Who is that?”

Which leads to today’s Top 5: Toll Booth Tales (aka What I Listened to This Week)

1) Erin O’Dowd – “Wewoka.” The answer to the question the toll booth collector asked is Erin O’Dowd, whose Old Town has received many plays from me this week. My hopes were high when, just about this time last year, I pledged for it on her Kickstarter page. I suspected it would be good. But this good?! After a week of listening, I can safely say that everything I wrote in my First Impressions of it is an understatement. It’s one of my favorite albums of the year, thus far.

 2) Belly – “Shiny One.” Back in 1993, I fell under the spell of Star, the Rhode Island band’s debut album, and played it the only way I know how – again and again, and again after that. “Feed the Tree” was, and remains, freakin’ awesome – one of the greatest songs of the era. I’d love to say that I also played their 1995 follow-up, King, in the same fashion, but can’t – my main memory of it is one of disappointment. Anyway, leap forward to the present, and I can say without equivocation that the reformed Belly’s third studio offering, Dove, is a keeper. (Highway Queens has a great review of it.) Also, just as an aside, this song – the lead single – seemingly channels one of the great under-appreciated bands of the 1980s, Opal.

3) Mazzy Star – “Quiet, the Winter Harbor.” And speaking of Opal, there’s this, the lead single from the forthcoming Still EP from Opal’s successor, Mazzy Star, which I have on pre-order from Amazon. It’s the kind of dreamy song that takes you places. 

4) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Warning Sign.” One of my big regrets of recent vintage is not recording this killer song when Diane and I saw Courtney Marie & Band perform it in Philly. It collects and reflects a myriad of influences, so much so that you’ll swear you heard it buried somewhere on either the Complete Stax/Volt Singles or Beg, Scream & Shout: The Big Ol’ Box of ‘60s Soul mega-sets. And with that…here she is delivering a stirring rendition of it in Liverpool last month. (The video’s only negative: Dillon’s guitar gymnastics take place off screen.)

5) Juliana Hatfield – “Suspended in Time.” Juliana performs this Xanadu song, from her insta-classic Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John album, just last week in Somerville, Mass. (She’s not touring at present, which is both a shame and understandable.)

I was driving in my car this morning, windows down, stereo up high – and Americana singer-songwriter Erin O’Dowd’s debut album, Old Town, sending my spirits soaring higher than the beautiful May morn. I won’t delve too deep into the tracks via a high-falutin’ review – I’ve heard the set exactly three times since its release yesterday, which is a few spins too short to say more than this: It’s a gem.

Erin has one of those voices, and the songs to match. At times, her vocals conjure Emmylou Harris or Nanci Griffith, though her inflections are shaded a tad darker; and a Dylan influence can be discerned on a few songs, such as the honky-tonk “One Trick Pony.” But, most of all, what you hear is her old soul shining through. 

Here’s one example: the opener, “Miss Neelye.”

And here’s another, “The Letter.”

You can sample the album in whole below, or via the Horton Records’ Bandcamp page (though it’s also available via Amazon, iTunes, etc., etc.).

It seems like yesterday that Diane and I made our way to the World Cafe Live to see the Staves, our first official concert of 2017, but it’s been eight months since that wondrous show – the first of many good and great live-music experiences in 2017.

Yeah, I’m already looking back.

There’s been a lot of great music released this year, too, including gems from Garland Jeffrey (14 Steps to Harlem), Lucy Rose (Something’s Changing), Paul Weller (A Kind Revolution) and, in the archival department, Neil Young (Hitch Hiker) and Paul McCartney (Flowers in the Dirt). Over the next few weeks, I plan to revisit all my favorites and – in the second week of December – reveal the OGC’s top pick for 2017 at our annual awards fete. And though I already have an inkling as to which will come out on top, the process is guaranteed to be fun.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Releases, Vol. IVIX.

1) Neil Young & Promise of the Real – “Already Great.” Neil and the Real unveil The Visitor on December 1st, which if this, the lead single, is any indication – was inspired by Neil’s resident-status in the U.S.A and the 2016 presidential election. Past and present will intermingle on the 1st, too: He wrote on Facebook that “my archive will open on that same day, a place you can visit and experience every song I have ever released in the highest quality your machine will allow. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. In the beginning, everything is free.”

2) The Staves & yMusic – “The Way Is Read.” On Nov. 24th, the sisters Staveley-Taylor release their latest project, a collaboration with yMusic, a chamber ensemble. This, the title track, is the second song they’ve shared. Like the first, it bodes well for the project.

Here’s the first preview:

3) First Aid Kit – “Postcard.” Siblings Johanna and Klara Söderberg have a new album, Ruins, scheduled for release on January 19th; and a (sold-out) tour of America in January and February, to boot.

4) Lucy Rose – “End Up Here.” The singer-songwriter debuted this video, shot by her husband, last week. (She’s currently on tour in the U.K., with an Australian jaunt slated for February.) The song itself is from her 2017 albumSomething’s Changing.)

5) Erin O’Dowd – “Trick Pony.” Erin’s full-length debut, Old Town, is slated for an early digital release next month for Kickstarter backers and will see a wider release early next year. Here’s she is on VDub Sessions:

And two bonuses…

6) Bob Seger – “Busload of Faith.” Here’s a preview of Bob’s forthcoming LP, I Knew You When, which is due out on the 17th. It’s a cover of a Lou Reed track…

7) Bob Dylan – “Slow Train (Rehearsal With Horns).” The bard’s latest Bootleg Series entry, Trouble No More, covers the years 1979-81, when he fell hard for faith.