Music festivals have been cancelled this summer – barring, of course, your occasional Smash Mouth-headlined superspreader event. In lieu of putting on new shows, established festivals have tried a variety of “virtual” events. Some have gotten a series of artists to perform from their homes; some have been re-airing a bunch of old performances. All are trying to make it feel like an event, with varying degrees of success.
We’re back! After a summer away on paternity leave (can a blog take paternity leave? well, we did), County Tracks returns with a supersized roundup of everything that went on while we were away.
This is, as always, “we” in the proverbial sense. It’s really just me, Ray Padgett. And I have my second book out this week! It’s about music, of course. Specifically the history of tribute albums, as told through the fascinating story of one in particular (1991’s I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen – which, even if you don’t realize it, is the reason you know the song “Hallelujah”). It’s in the great 33 1/3 series of small books on specific albums. Hope you’ll check it out! Preorder links and more info over here.
Now, onto the music…
Abby Sherman Band – The Road
“The Road” is the first song on Bandcamp that Vermont singer-songwriter Abby Sherman has billed as being by the “Abby Sherman Band.” A minuscule rebranding, but one that feels significant. Whereas her best song last year was a stripped-down dirge, “The Road” features a muscular alt-country backing group giving her melody some heft. Special props to whoever played the country-Mark-Knopfler guitar solo.
Elder Orange – Stella
Matt Scott, aka Elder Orange, wrote his new EP Stella inspired by his ’71 Stella parlor acoustic guitar. But despite the acoustic guitar-influence, singer-songwriter music this isn’t. Scott’s a producer and composer who builds immersive instrumental soundscapes incorporating that guitar here and there, but not beholden to it. In this case, he says, “Stella is a blend of a lot of my favorite sounds; dusty 60’s funk rock laced with boom-bap alt-latin vibes and gritty electro-fusion.”
Amelia Devoid – Counters
It’s not clear if this song was written in our current self-isolation, but even if it wasn’t, lines like this have a new resonance: “I’ve been wiping down counters / and counting down hours / ’til i can lay in the flowers again”.
Francesca Blanchard’s whimsical new music video was filmed in New York City well before the coronavirus crisis. But watching her wander through mobs of people now in the clip for her single “Did It To Myself,” I couldn’t help thinking, “Six feet apart, guys!”
But if you’re walking the streets in a wedding dress singing to yourself, people might steer clear regardless.
As you may have heard, Bandcamp is waving all its fees until midnight tonight to deliver 100% of the money to musicians. In this time of cancelled gigs and an uncertain future, artists need your support more than ever. So go nuts. To start, here are twenty-five great 2020 albums to buy there.
Note: Bandcamp’s site is currently pretty overloaded. So bear with it. And, if none of their embeds show up below, reload this page until they do.
There are a million playlists to soundtrack your social distancing. But how about a playlist of songs about social distancing?
These 20 antisocial songs from Vermont artists new and old all touch on keeping your distance and staying inside. Some of them offer good advice for our current predicament. Others offer extremely bad advice. You should never take advice from a musician.
Recording an entire album in one’s bedroom used to be a feat of DIY ingenuity. With modern technology, though, it’s no longer a big deal. Billie Eilish recorded her blockbuster debut in her brother’s bedroom and it doesn’t sound lo-fi or hissy or any of the other hallmarks we used to associate with “bedroom recordings.”
Harrison Hsiang wrote, produced, recorded, and mixed his band Couchsleepers’ debut album Only When It’s Dark in his bedroom. Yawn. But he takes it one step further. It’s a bedroom album – about that very bedroom.
Bad Rat? – Transitional Forest
“Transitional Forest” is billed as the lead single of Bad Rat’s upcoming album This Time Around The Sun, but it’s almost two singles in one. The first half is a bit of a feint, a meditative meander that doesn’t predict the drop to come. With little warning, Marc Kamil’s mellow ballad becomes thudding post-punk, little more than a shared guitar line connecting the two halves.
A few years ago, a video called “Winooski, My Town” went semi-viral. Over a bouncy production, a group of young African refugees recorded an infectious Afropop tribute to their hometown. But this “Winooski” isn’t in the singers’ native Somalia or Tanzania. Winooski is in Vermont. The group calls themselves A2VT, and you can see why a recent Afropop Worldwide article felt the need to add a question mark to the end of their headline: “East African Bliss From Vermont?”