We’re hitting that point in the year where there isn’t much new music being released so I’m going to have to start getting a little more creative with what I’m considering new. So this week I’m talking about two songs off of the deluxe version of Amos Lee’s newest album My New Moon, which was just released yesterday.
One of the new songs on the deluxe version of the album is a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. I wish this song wasn’t still so relevant to today. There was so much great protest music written in the 60s and it’s kind of disheartening to listen to it today because the lyrics still fit so well and you can see that we haven’t come very far.
Marvin Gaye’s version of this song has never been one of my favorites from that era, but I love what Amos Lee has done with it. His voice is perfect for the song and I think the even more slowed down and mellow tone he gives it work really well.
That brings us to “No More Darkness, No More Light” which was the first single off the album. It was a song I thought about writing about for this series multiple weeks only to have something else edge it out until it no longer felt new enough to fall under the new music Friday moniker. But since I’m writing about another song on the album I thought I would go ahead and sneak it in here.
Despite the uplifting tone of the music, the song itself is actually pretty heavy. Amos Lee took apart the whole song and rewrote the lyrics in the days following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting as the students there started to call out people for the hollow “thoughts and prayers” they were offering. I feel like the song offers a bit of hope at the end even if it seems to indicate there’s a long road before we ever get there. I keep trying to follow that hope even though most days I find it harder and harder to even see the road. I like when my music keeps reminding me to push forward.
If you read my blog post about seeing The Lone Bellow in concert earlier this week you may recall that I mentioned that they recently came out with a new EP of acoustic music called The Restless that includes some new stuff, some acoustic versions of old stuff, and a cover of Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge”. One of the songs off the EP that they sang and which I heard for the first time during the concert was “Power Over Me”. It’s a beautiful, simple song about grieving the loss of someone you still love deeply. I absolutely adore it. I have listened to it about 500 times since the show. I highly recommend you do the same.
I usually write up these concerts posts much quicker, but I went out of town the day after I saw this show and have been pretty busy in the evenings since I got back home and haven’t had time to write anything. But I like keeping a record of my concerts so I’m still doing this one a week late even though I know no one really cares about these posts but me.
The opening act was someone named Samantha Crain, who I had never heard of before. It was just her and her guitar up there on the stage. She had some amusing stage banter, but her music didn’t grab me. It wasn’t terrible, but for some reason I just didn’t connect with it. The person standing behind me however was SUPER in love with her. So she’s obviously up some people’s allies more than mine.
This was my fifth time seeing The Oh Hellos. I saw them twice at the Newport Folk Festival, which is where I first became acquainted with them. I saw them as an opening act for needtobreathe at the Fillmore Silver Spring, and I saw them once before at Baltimore Soundstage. They are just joy personified. They have so much fun on stage. Every single one of them. All 8 of them. They were a little more stationary this show than at some of the other ones I’ve been to, but a lot of times I wonder how they don’t all crash into each other dancing around as they do.
They always have really great interactions with the audience as well. There was a whole deal at the beginning with their lead singer chugging down a bottle of water and saying he was going to need a bottle every other song as warm as he was. It sort of became a thing that I think became a little performative because of the audience interaction. At one point I said something to my friends about him needing to eat some chips or something because he was drinking a concerning amount of water with no salt intake. Pretty much right after that someone else from the audience yelled out “eat a pretzel”, so I obviously wasn’t the only one thinking that.
I do feel like the sound mix was a little bit off though. For some reason the bass was turned up super loud, and The Oh Hellos are not a band that I consider to be bass heavy. A lot of their stuff has more of a Celtic vibe to it and bass is not really the focus. At any rate the bass was overpowering and was so loud it was making my body vibrate. Even with my ear plugs in it screwed up my ears and set off my tinnitus for days. I really hate that. Even when the instrument mix isn’t out of whack I don’t understand why they have to have the sound turned up so loud, especially in such a small venue. I don’t understand how anyone who works in these places or the bands and themselves have any hearing left at all.
Ok, now that I’m done with my old lady shakes her fist at the sky moment I will say that aside from the unruly sound it was a great show as always. The Oh Hellos never disappoint. There is no way to leave one of their shows without a smile on your face.
I still owe you a post on The Oh Hellos concert from last week, but I’m already so far behind on that one I’m going to kick it down the road a little bit farther and go ahead and write about The Lone Bellow concert I went to last night. Usually when I’m talking about how much I love Wolf Trap and that it’s my favorite concert venue I’m generally technically talking about The Filene Center at Wolf Trap, which is their outdoor venue. They also have a very intimate winter venue called The Barns, which is composed of two 300 year old barns. It is also a wonderful place to see a show.
Last night I went down there to see The Lone Bellow’s Acoustic Tour with Naia Izumi opening. I thought I didn’t know anything about Naia Izumi until we got there and I realized he was the winner of the most recent NPR Tiny Desk Contest. I didn’t particularly care for his music when I watched that Tiny Desk Concert and I can’t see I much cared for it last night either, but I will say that he is a very interesting and talented guitar player. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone play a guitar quite like him before, but I can’t say I’ll go out of my way to listen to him again.
The Lone Bellow however was fantastic. This all acoustic tour took them back to their roots with just the three main band members Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipken on stage with some acoustic guitars, a mandolin, and a grand piano. Although they’ve never been an entirely acoustic band they’ve always done some acoustic stuff and in more recent years have had some additional people sitting in as part of the band including Kanene’s husband Jason on keys. At one point near the end of the show Zach said that this tour has been like a reset button and breathed new life into the music for him and it couldn’t have felt more like that last night. I’ve seen The Lone Bellow many times over the past five years and they’re always delightful and fun so I hadn’t actually realized that anything was missing until I saw it again last night.
They were silly and free and just genuinely seemed to be enjoying being up stage together and watching and listening to what each of them can do. That led to a lot of riffing and them winding up messing around with a lot of cover songs they don’t actually know the lyrics to generally due to Brian starting something. They used to do that all the time in their early shows, but I haven’t seen them be that loose with a set in a long time and I forgot how much I love it. Brian sang one line from the Patty Griffin song “Let Him Fly”. An audience member encouraged them to keep going, but they didn’t know any other lyrics. She shouted that she did and she wound up singing part of it with them joining in. After they mistakenly attributed the song to the Dixie Chicks it turned into a whole Dixie Chicks thing complete with a cover of “Wide Open Spaces” being danced to with pantomimed lyrics. There was also a cover of Boys II Men’s “End of the Road” at the beginning of the encore. In addition to all the silly off the cuff covers they also did a legit pre-planned cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, which was amazing. Kanene singing that song was gorgeous.
The actual set was great too. It was wonderful to hear so many of their songs played acoustic. I also had not realized that they put out an EP of acoustic songs, which includes some new songs, some acoustic versions of previous songs plus a cover of Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge”, a few weeks ago until they mentioned it last night. I really liked the songs they song off that last night am happy to know I have some new Lone Bellow music that I didn’t even know about.
It was a really wonderful show filled with a lot of laughter, fantastic music, and moments that made me grin from ear to ear. It was way better than sitting home watching election returns and well worth the long drive down to Wolf Trap.
I have two new songs for you this one. One is not the newest of the new, but I’m betting most of you haven’t heard it.
Mockingbird by Ruston Kelly
I’ve been meaning to write about this song for weeks now. It’s been in contention for new music Friday for a couple of weeks now, but there has always been another song that dropped that I felt about writing about more. It finally gets the honor of appearing here this week. “Mockingbird” has apparently been out in the world since July, but I only added it to my 2018 Spotify playlist at the beginning of October which means I probably didn’t run across it until several months later. The song is by Ruston Kelly, aka Mr. Kacey Musgraves. It reminds me of early harmonica-y Ryan Adams, which is my favorite Ryan Adams, so I’m really digging that vibe.
Comeback Kid by Sharon Van Etten
In general I’ve never been a huge fan of Sharon Van Etten, but I’m really liking her new song “Comeback Kid”. This is her first new music since 2014, so it’s been awhile. There’s not much in the lyrics that I find super exciting, but I just love the sound and vibe of the song. The song has been out for a few weeks, but this music video for it just dropped a couple of days ago. I actually watched it for the first time in writing this post, but I had seen comments about it channeling 80’s Pat Benatar, which it most certainly does. It may be my favorite thing about the song and the video is the little title chyron that shows up at the beginning of the video like they used to on MTV. Ah nostalgia.
I’ve got a couple of new songs for you this week. One thing that I kept hearing shortly after the 2016 election was well at least we’re bound to get some good protest music out of all of this. At the time people took issue with it because it sounded really flippant in the face of everything, but two years into this mess it turns out they weren’t wrong.
Early voting started here in Maryland yesterday and I’m sure if it hasn’t started where you are yet it soon will leading up to actual election day on November 6. So take a listen to a couple of great new protest songs, remember what we’re fighting for, and then get out there and vote.
Hands Dirty by Delta Rae
“Hands Dirty” is a song written in response to the #MeToo movement by Brittany Hölljes one of the members who was herself sexually assaulted as a teenager. You can read more about her story and why she wrote the song in her own words. It’s a great song with a very powerful video. There’s a part about 3/4 of the way through that gets me every time.
“American Dream” by J.S. Ondara
J.S. Ondara is born in Nairobi, Kenya and now lives in Minnesota. His explanation of the video and song is way better than anything I could say about it so I will just let his words speak for themselves.
“The video follows a man, as he sets upon a journey to purchase a weapon. While on his way, we get a glimpse of the world around him through his eyes, which gives us some insight into his state of mind. Ultimately, the video explores the turbulent times in the country, socially and politically, thereby throwing a shade of irony to the popular notion of ‘The American Dream.'”
Just a quick one for you today because I’m traveling, but I’m nothing but committed to you dear reader so I didn’t want to leave you without a song to listen to this fine Friday. The song “Party of One” itself is not that new. It’s off of Brandi Carlile’s newest album by the way I forgive you. On the tour for the album she’s been closing out the set prior to the encore with this song where she says this song is what happens when you get in a fight with your wife and then stay up late getting drunk and listening to Joni Mitchell. She just dropped this new version of the song as a duet with Sam Smith on Wednesday. Some of the proceeds from this version will go to support Children in Conflict through Brandi’s Looking Out Foundation where she does a lot of work to support children in war torn countries.