Tag Archives: William Tyler

Cass McCombs & Steve Gunn

It’s another great day to buy from Bandcamp, y’all. In honor of Juneteenth, the benevolent music marketplace is donating its share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. (And they’ve pledged to do the same each Juneteenth going forward.)

I’m filling up my shopping cart now, and I’m planning to update the list of recommendations at the bottom of this post throughout the day. For now, I thought I’d pass along a heads up about a great 7-inch Cass McCombs and Steve Gunn just released. They’d hoped to sell it on a west coast tour, but since that run was canceled, they’ve made it available on Bandcamp. It pairs a Gunn-sung take on the traditional tune “Wild Mountain Thyme” with a cover of Michael Hurley’s “Sweet Lucy” (a song I hold near and dear — my daughter’s humming along to it as I type this) sung by McCombs.

You can hear both of those tunes below. And here are a few other items I have my eye on:

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2019 in Review: Instrumental

Let’s get this retrospective party started, y’all. Once again, I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew and am attempting to blurb more albums than is remotely reasonable, but I thought I’d get rolling with a list of nine favorite non-jazz, non-RVA instrumental albums. Four posts will follow this one — Jazz, Audiovisual (new category this year, though I guess “Instrumental” is new too), RVA, and 25 Favorites. As has been the case the last few years, these are presented in alphabetical order. No ranking. Just sending love letters out to the albums that meant a great deal to me in 2019.

Phil Cook — As Far As I Can See

I wrote in the last Off Your Radar issue of the year about my connection to Phil Cook’s music, and how it distills the joy I have for the creative community that links Richmond, Durham, and Eau Claire. As Far As I Can See provides a zoomed-in view of Cook’s genius, narrowing the focus so we can see how he builds songs and melodies when words aren’t on the table. I’ve played this a zillion times since it came in the mail, often first thing in the morning on weekends or when I’m working from home. Pair with hot coffee and feeling hopeful about what the day will bring.

Ebony Steel Band — Pan Machine

I’ve been listening to Kraftwerk all wrong this whole time. In truth I haven’t spent a ton of time with the German band’s albums — just exploratory listens here and there. But I’ve always focused on the mechanical stuff. The beat. The synth sounds. The blunt vocals. This wonderful album of steel drum covers pushes melody to the foreground. Mind blown. I had no idea how gracefully these songs move. I can’t wait to get to know the original versions even better — now with a better listening toolkit.

Elkhorn — Sun Cycle/Elk Jam

Two fearless, searching albums, with approximately two million avenues for your mind to travel down while listening. Sun Cycle and Elk Jam remind me of the note Zooey Deschanel leaves Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous about spinning Tommy and seeing your future unfold — press play on either of these, close your eyes, and let your imagination run wild. You may end up in a forest. You may communicate with dead relatives. Elkhorn’s music is as infinite as your capacity for wonder.

Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan — New Rain Duets

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but when I walked into Richmond Music Hall in May to see Steve Gunn, I had no idea that the “Mary & Mac” who would be opening were Mary Lattimore and Mac McCaughan, who released this gorgeous ambient album just a couple of months earlier. As far as supporting act surprises go, it doesn’t get much better than that. Mrs. YHT and I sat and ate dinner in the back of the hall while Mary & Mac painted some seriously dreamy soundscapes, complete with nature imagery projected onto the back of the stage. What a gift that was.

Ryan Lott — Pentaptych

I learned fairly early on in my Son Lux fandom that frontman Ryan Lott was also a composer, and Pentaptych has been an excellent introduction to that side of his musical brain. Quick story: I grew to love the way the piece — originally composed as ballet accompaniment — carved out musical space. The low end and high end are noticeably distant from one another, leaving this vast, vacant middle area. Turns out (and I can’t seem to find where he said this), Lott was intentionally setting the stage for the dancers, creating an openness where visual aspects of the performance could be foregrounded. I’m amazed at how clearly he was able to articulate that vision.

Bill Orcutt — Odds Against Tomorrow

Gave this a listen after Mark Richardson wrote about it for Bandcamp Daily. My first rodeo with Bill Orcutt’s music. I’ve found Odds Against Tomorrow to be richly rewarding for both the head and the heart; it forces you to flex preconceptions relating to time and dynamics, and it contains a delicately rendered version of “Moon River,” the song I often sing my kids at bed/naptime.

Rosenau & Sanborn — Bluebird

I put in my pre-order for this while on vacation in the Outer Banks. I can remember stealing a few minutes to myself and using them to listen to “Saturday,” only it was too long to get through, so I listened to it in pieces the first few times I heard it. My copy came in the mail a few months later, on a day when I really needed something wordless and nurturing and engaging. Bluebird was both figuratively and literally there for me.

Various — Industry/Water

One of 2019’s most welcome developments was Jonny Greenwood starting his own label, Octatonic Records. I’m a big fan of the Radiohead guitarist’s soundtrack work, and it’s great to know he’s planting deep roots in the realm of modern classical. The announcement of the label’s founding was accompanied by two initial releases, and I snagged the second — an LP that pairs one of Greenwood’s own compositions, “Water,” with a delightfully dissonant piece by Michael Gordon called “Industry.” Both are beautiful and challenging, and I can’t wait to see where Octatonic goes next.

William Tyler — Goes West

I get a sense of warmth from this record that goes beyond notes, chords, and instruments. It’s an atmosphere. It’s a statement of belief, rooted in a genuine appreciation for his Cosmic Americana forbears — including a Windham Hill universe that he’s helped me connect with over the past couple of years. While Goes West is certainly a fun listen, it feels as deep as anything William Tyler has made to this point.

More 2019 in Review:

2019 in Review: Jazz
2019 in Review: Audiovisual
2019 in Review: RVA
2019 in Review: 25 Favorites

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Skyway Man

So I’m late to the party here, posting about a show just a few hours before it starts, but this Skyway Man album has my adrenaline racing. I’m on my first listen, and it feels like someone’s slowly reading off winning lottery numbers that keep matching the ones on ticket I’m holding. It’s bonkers… all the sounds I’ve been gravitating toward are here.

A few data points:

  • I picked up a copy of Cosmic American Music at the Numero Group’s pop-up sale at Strange Matter in April.
  • Thanks to an especially fruitful Goodwill haul, I’ve been heavy into gospel the last few weeks, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Billy Preston’s Gospel in My Soul album to early 1980’s Savoy Records stuff.
  • I’m also in the middle of a big William Tyler kick. A BK Music Instagram post prompted me to play Impossible Truth in the recovery room after my son was born a couple weeks back, and miraculously it was still there a couple of days later, along with his earlier Behold the Spirit album.
  • We named our son Ryland, so I’ve been making my way through my father-in-law’s Ry Cooder albums, marveling at how simultaneously timeless and of-their-time they sound, especially Borderline and “Why Don’t You Try Me.”

Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye is tailor-made for someone embroiled in exactly these obsessions, with the spacey aspects of Cosmic American Music, the voluminousness and spirituality of gospel, Tyler’s exploratory spirit, and references to early 1980’s production that remove songs from the present moment, like they’re wandering untethered by time. It’s all here, along with the signature Spacebomb sounds that consistently fill my heart with joy.

As mad at myself as I am for posting this so late — and as ashamed as I am that I haven’t been listening to James Wallace’s stuff all along — I can’t help thinking that Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye and I met at exactly the right moment. Many, many thanks to Alexandra Spalding for the heads up.

Doors open at Gallery5 tonight at 7. Twain and Big Kitty will be there as well. Click here for more info.

Skyway Man — “Wires (Donny Angel and the Opening Wide)” [Spotify/iTunes]

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2015! Holy Crap! Part 2: Blasts from the Past

Edge of Daybreak — Eyes of Love

Edge of Daybreak

Eyes of Love is intriguing for a number (or should I say Numero?) of reasons. The fascinating backstory, the fact that the recording took place at a correctional facility just outside Richmond, the electricity that comes from having to nail (and having nailed these) songs in one or two takes… But the thing I loved most about the re-release of Eyes of Love was the jam-packed event Steady Sounds held, which gave the band the opportunity to see firsthand that people are invested in the music they made all those years ago. Those songs didn’t just vanish into the air. The mistakes we make never stop being a part of us, but neither do our accomplishments, and I hope James Carrington signing my copy (pictured above) felt half as meaningful to him as it did to me.

Edge of Daybreak — “Eyes of Love” [Spotify/iTunes]

Syl Johnson — Complete Twinight Singles

Syl Johnson

Another awesome Numero Group release. Thanks to this extensive resource, which was released in August, I got to spend the second half of this year getting to know a large chunk of Johnson’s work, which now feels as canonical as it always should have. I had no idea my soul Mount Rushmore was missing such a crucial face.

Syl Johnson — “Is It Because I’m Black” [Spotify/iTunes]

William Tyler — Deseret Canyon

William Tyler

When Deseret Canyon was released on CD in 2008, it was credited to The Paper Hats, but the album was reissued earlier this year on vinyl under William Tyler’s name. It’s kind of confusing. It took me a while to wrap my brain around the whole thing. It also took my a while to commit to buying Deseret Canyon — I visited it at Plan 9 three or four times before taking the plunge. I’m glad I did though. If Daniel Bachman has taught me anything, it’s that being a generous listener — giving artists time and space to develop ideas gradually — pays big dividends, and Deseret Canyon is especially rewarding in this sense.

William Tyler — “Parliament Of Birds” [Spotify/iTunes]

Various — High Fidelity Original Soundtrack

High Fidelity

I was so thrilled to snag this on Record Store Day Black Friday. It’s hard to believe this had never been issued on vinyl in America. Or maybe it’s strangely appropriate, given the scene in which Jack Black won’t sell that poor sap a copy of Safe as Milk. Either way, those dark days are behind us, and vinyl nerds everywhere can revel in this truly excellent collection. Or as the Kinks might put it…

The Kinks — “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy” [Amazon]

Stevie Ray Vaughn — A Legend In The Making

Stevie Ray Vaughn

SRV was the first guitar deity I worshiped, and while I hadn’t heard about this particular show before its release for RSD Black Friday was announced, one look at the track list sold me. See for yourself — lots of Hendrix, some of Vaughn’s best songs… makes me wonder why I haven’t been a more faithful congregant in recent years.

Stevie Ray Vaughn — “Little Wing” (Jimi Hendrix cover) [Discogs]

The Zombies — The BBC Radio Sessions

the zombies

OK so this turned out to be mostly a RSD Black Friday retrospective, but whatever — this is really fun stuff. I fell in love with the live-at-the-BBC format via the two Beatles BBC releases. Some interviews, some covers of songs that were popular at the time… you get a great sense for the moment in which these radio shows were recorded. Though it lacks some of the best Zombies songs, you still get to sit back and imagine hearing “Tell Her No” on the radio for the first time. How wild would that have been? And how wild is it to think about the power radio had back then? I’m telling you — this is fun stuff.

The Zombies — “Tell Her No” [Discogs]

More retrospective fun!

Part 1: Fav Physical Releases

AnEarful’s excellent “Out of the Past” post

 

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