in my soul there’s music everywhere

On his latest release, In the Cool of the Day, Cold Spring, Kentucky’s Daniel Martin Moore explores his roots, tapping into the sound of the south and the long shadow of religion that informs the culture. Though the lyrics are often explicitly religious, Moore never gets preachy and the beauty of the songs transcends the words, making it highly enjoyable for even those of a non-Christian persuasion.

The instrumental framework of In the Cool of the Day is what you’d expect for a Southern Americana album – acoustic guitar, banjo, piano, strings, drums, voice. What you don’t necessarily expect is the all-star talent putting the instruments to use – Yim Yames, Ben Sollee, and Haley Bonar among them.

The 50s pop-ballad vibe of “Closer Walk With Thee” makes it seem like hanging out with Jesus would be just tops, while the title track is a bit more reverent with its minor chords. “Dark Road” is a lively country rambler, and “Up Above My Head” sounds like something from a front-porch jam session.

My favorite contributions to the album are the songs written by Moore. The a capella open of “All Ye Tenderhearted” is gorgeous, further bolstered by the banjo, mandolin, and guitar that join in. “Lay Down Your Lonesome Burden” is a beautiful instrumental musing, and the humble, bluesy “O My Soul” is a must-hear. Regardless of your spiritual leanings, In the Cool of the Day will make you a believer in Daniel Martin Moore.

In the Cool of the Day drops 01.18.11.
You can download “Dark Road” here.

paint over your rock and roll walls

On their debut EP Taxidermy, Kentucky trio Englishman (led by Andrew English and comprising members of These United States and The Scourge of the Sea) serve up relaxed, folky tunes and picture-perfect lyrics.

Though the EP is primarily an acoustic venture, Englishman rounds out their sound with the occasional electronic blip and garage riff. The songs have a comfortable, lived-in feeling – it wouldn’t be the least bit odd for English and his cohort to be sitting at your kitchen table playing these songs over tea.

Englishman’s strong suit falls with the lyrics. With curious lines like “the light’s on in the house with the pumpkin eyes,” English provides striking and specific images and crafts tiny tall tales that linger somehwere between fable and dream.

Taxidermy dropped 05/19/2009.
Listen to the album in its entirety here.

like downed telephone wires

It’s not often that beauty comes from tragedy, but The Island Moved In the Storm achieves just that. Inspired by a woman known as Tent Girl, who was found deceased on the side of a Kentucky road in 1968, Matt Bauer creates an obscenely intimate and haunting album.

Banjo, acoustic guitar, and female backing vocals make up the core of Bauer’s sound, with the occasional warmth of horns, strings, and slide guitar added for depth. The songs are often fairly simple, but the devil is in the details and ghosts come through on the often otherworldly vocals.

A creepy-through-context girl choir joins in with Bauer’s broken, strained whisper on “Barn Owl” as he croons things like ‘the snow blows like a bridal train / sideways through the pines’, while the two work in a push-and-pull harmony during “Blacksnake in the Carport”. The girls hit their peak on the 24-second title track, beckoning one to ‘come, I will tell you where the island moved into the storm’, opening a gateway to the cloy of “Florida Rain” and the pretty but deadly “Foxgloves” and ‘hummingbirds with ruby throats / invisible wings / invisible notes’.

Bauer gradually grows his sound on the final three tracks of the album, starting with the introduction of electric sounds on the very sonically interesting and powerful “Old Kimball” and continuing through the slide-guitar-laden country lament “(Corolla) The One You Love”.

Extremely well put-together, The Island Moved In the Storm is a broken fairy tale, a fever dream.

The Island Moved In the Storm drops 09/02/08.
Download “Don’t Let Me Out” and visit his artist page here.