John Moreland

John Moreland, who released one of last year’s most outstanding albums in Big Bad Luv, will be playing a sold-out show at the Camel here in town on Sunday. It promises to be an exceptional one — I’d call it a must-see for anyone who values the craft of songwriting. Moreland’s songs are as affecting as you’ll find, and they’re awash in the sacred alchemy that turns hurt into healing via language and melody and honesty. Many writers set out to perform that same magic, but his gift is a rarefied one, up there with the greats, in my opinion.

Speaking of gifts, I was given a tremendous one in having the opportunity to interview him for a River City Magazine article, which recently went up online. We talked about connecting with audiences, about the role religion has played in his life, about touring in a hardcore band in high school… he was generous and candid and I’m truly grateful for that conversation.

Here’s a link to the article, and here’s a link to more info about Sunday’s show at the Camel. Saw Black opens. Can’t wait.

John Moreland — “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)” [Spotify/iTunes]

Son Lux

I wrote most of this post about Son Lux drummer Ian Chang’s 2017 solo EP while sitting in a dentist’s office last summer, waiting for the local anesthesia to kick in before getting a filling put in. Here I am, sitting in the same dentist’s office — might even be the same chair — about to get another filling, starting a post about one of the tunes Son Lux has made available ahead of the February 9th release of their new Brighter Wounds album.


Yes, aside from the fact that I need to be better about flossing.

“Slowly” has quickly (sorry, couldn’t help myself) jumped way up my list of favorite Son Lux tunes. I feels like a bit of a departure — narrower in scope, maybe, and more personal, but no less ambitious. In fact, this is one of the most interesting examples of deconstruction I’ve heard in a long time. “Slowly” strips the classic R&B form to its basic elements, something the band manages to do with great precision thanks to Chang’s phenomenal internal clock.

Take a listen below. And don’t forget to floss before you go to bed tonight.

Son Lux — “Slowly” [Spotify/iTunes]

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet

This came in the mail yesterday — a late Christmas present from my mom, who loves to surprise me with music that’s obscure or experimental or otherwise off my radar. She’s a devoted listener of Paul Shugrue’s Out of the Box show on WHRV, and she has such a great ear, especially when it comes to atypical combinations of sounds, which is what you’ll find on Ladilikan, the collaborative album released last year by Malian griot ensemble Trio Da Kali and the long-running San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet.

While the result certainly feels novel, this isn’t a case of worlds colliding. The common ground here seems harmonious and comfortable — comforting, even. They included a cover of a gospel tune called “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away,” and it reminds me a little of the uber-soothing rendition of Stephen Foster’s “Slumber My Darling” sung by Alison Krauss on Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology. According to the extensive liner notes in the vinyl edition of Ladilikan, Kronos’ musical director fell for the song after hearing Mahalia Jackson’s version, and Trio Da Kali vocalist Hawa ‘Kassé Mady’ Diabate — daughter of Malian singing legend Kassé Mady Diabate — renders the song beautifully.

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet — “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away” [Spotify/iTunes]