Author: James Orme

Memphis Dawls
Rooted in the Bone
Madjack Records
Street: 11.04.14
Memphis Dawls = Emmylou Harris + The Everly Brothers + The Civil Wars

One of my favorite things, musically, are great vocal harmonies, and the Memphis Dawls are exceptionally good at them. To so many people, folk music is code for dusty and boring, but I would challenge anyone to get through one spin of Rooted in the Bone and dare to utter the word boring. Songs like “Liar” transform this three-piece, all-girl folk band into a ’60s soul group, and at the same time, the traditional gospel sounds of “Where’d You Go My Love” all feel at home on this record. Another standout is the wanderlust-filled country tune ”Ride Alone”—with steel guitar and the girls’ vocals, it may be the loneliest song I’ve ever heard. Folk being the root of all music, I think that might be why a group like these gifted gals can go anywhere musically and still seem to make it all come from the same place. –James Orme


Old Smokey – Wester Easter
Old Smokey
Wester Easter
Cloud Recordings
Street: 04.29
Old Smokey = Wilco + Kingston Trio + Warren Zevon

While there is no shortage of folk music being produced today, there is, however, in that massive effort, a shortage of originality and creativity. Old Smokey has the remedy for the stale folk recipe we all know. They shake things up on every track with instrumentation and arrangements that all at once conjure an old timey feeling, but are still far from the traditional. “All The Way Slow” stands out, as the band jams out on this ‘60s flavored rocker that feels comfortable amongst the earthy banjo and other string tunes. So much of this record is instrumental, but the impressive thing is how much of a story can still come through in a song without lyrics—a song like “Leggy” has so much texture and color to it, it’s is easy to feel a narrative, or maybe it’s simply a beautiful backdrop for the listener to set their own story into.
–James Orme


White Flag Down
Never Surrender
Skinflint Music
Street: 07.01
White Flag Down = The Templars + Lower Class Brats + Patriot + U.S. Bombs
Is there a set of specifications to be considered a Clockwork punk band? Because I’d imagine that The Adicts would be an example that most bands would look to. Sure, all of them are punk bands, but other than that they sound very little like one another. White Flag Down, for example, seem to be a very down and dirty crossroads of punk rock, mixing oi, hardcore, and even straight rock n’ roll. The theme of “no surrender” runs rampant through this record. In fact that’s what their name is alluding to. Now, what they’re unwilling to surrender is less clear, but that’s punk rock—rebellion for rebellion’s sake—and a good punk record is always fun to spin. No, this record doesn’t slap you across the face with anything new, but it’s plain to see that this quartet from LA treats this stuff more like religion than anything, and that sells them better that anything. –James Orme


The Chapin Sisters

A Date With the Everly Brothers

Lake Bottom Records

Street: 04.23

The Chapin Sisters = She and Him (they’re in that band) + Everly Brothers (they play their songs)

What began as a labor of love for the Chapin Sisters has become a terrific installment to their catalogue, and even though the entire record is made up of Everly Brothers tunes, its almost as if the record is a collaboration of the two groups. The Chapin Sisters take Everly classics like “Cathy’s Clown” and “When Will I Be Loved” and play them so sincerely and honestly that there’s no need to make drastic changes—these covers get out of the way and let the song take over, which is something that only the most talented players and vocalists can achieve. These girls sing these harmonies like they were sewn together, which is an amazing feat in and of itself, seeing as how a comparison to the Everly’s long celebrated harmonies seems obligatory, but I can honestly say these girls not only pull this off, at times, they even elevate.  –James Orme

Eddie Spaghetti
The Value of Nothing
Bloodshot Records
Street: 06.18
Eddie Spaghetti = John Doe + Lucero + Dave Alvin
Eddie Spaghetti evidently has just too much rock n’ roll in his soul. With his day job fronting the Supersuckers, you’d think he’d exorcise every rockin’ demon in him, but even that’s not enough, so where his previous solo endeavors are more straight country, he’s brought harder stuff to get the party going. Ironically, Spaghetti enlisted honky-tonk luminary Jesse Dayton to produce, sing and play all over this record. Country still finds its way to the surface on the laidback “One Man Job,” a fun back-and-forth duet between Spaghetti and Dayton. The out-and-out rocker, “Fuckin’ With My Head,” is a punk tune that would be at home on a Dead Boys record. Spaghetti is a force that I don’t believe can be stopped—he jumps from country-rock to straight country to wherever he deems the correct place to be: He’s no-bullshit, and that’s the best thing I can say about anybody. –James Orme



Lara Hope & The Ark-tones
Luck Maker
Street: 06.14.14
Lara Hope & the Ark-tones = Imelda May + The Reverend Horton Heat + Kim Lenz

So I have to give this band credit—they are one of the most original sounding rockabilly bands I’ve ever heard, and that’s a rarity in the rockabilly scene. With a mix of vintage R&B and a little bit of psychobilly edge backing the smoky and raw lead vocals of Lara Hope & The Ark-tones, it’s easy to see how they’ve managed to make a name for themselves so quickly. I love when a band can use a genre as an anchor, but still manage to stretch and contort their sound into something new, so when this New York outfit goes from the rollicking raucous “Whiskey Pick” to the jazzy, uptown number “I’ve Never,” I find that awfully interesting. The skill, talent and versatility on this record is top notch, but the risks they take musically are what is going to keep me listening and watching to see what this band is up to. –James Orme

The Devil Makes Three

I’m a Stranger Here

New West

Street: 10.29.13

Devil Makes Three = Blind Willie Mctell + The Pine Hill Haints + Roscoe Holcomb

Few bands can capture the imagination like Devil Makes Three. They invoke deep-woods medicine shows, jumping blues juke joints and midnight hootenannies by moonlight. They’ve sold their souls at the crossroads of blues, hot jazz and old timey acoustic folk music, and when the outcome is the material found on I’m a Stranger Here, no preacher in the land could condemn them. Devil Makes Three have always used simplicity as a strength, but this record has the broadest scope from the band yet. Even when other musicians add their playing to the dynamic, at the center is still DMT doing what we’re used to. I’ve always been taken aback by how well these guys blend different styles of Americana music. They deconstruct American genres and show its genealogical lines. This is acoustic roots music at its very best. –James Orme
Trash Monsters
There’s a Rat in the Tunnel of Love
Heap O’ Trouble
Street: 06.04
Trash Monsters = Dead Boys + Social Distortion + Bouncing Souls
Punk rock is best served when it’s not trying to be punk, but when its simply trying to be load, fast, obnoxious rock n’ roll. That’s what Trash Monsters do so well. The whole album has the attitude and elements of early punk, but without any sort of throwback mentality to it. An oft forgotten ingredient of fun can be found firmly at the root of what the Trash Monsters are doing. Everything engages the listener to sing along with the graceful lyrics to bobbing your head to the contagious rhythms or humming along to the catchy hooks in almost every track. Is this your most blistering in-your-face version of punk rock out there? Not even close, but its well crafted, thoughtfully written and, dare I say, soulful at places. Which I have to say is a way more impressive feat than playing super fast. I hope to hear more from these Trash Monsters. –James Orme

Deke Dickerson

Echosonic Eldorado

Major Label

Street: 04.02

Deke Dickerson = Carl Perkins + Roy Orbison + The Blasters + Johnny Horton (his rockabilly stuff)

Retro rocker Deke Dickerson tackles roots music with an authenticity and earnestness that never feels like a gimmick. Most of Deke’s records contain a fair amount of rockabilly along with western swing and any number of genres from blues to jazz, but has focused in on rockabilly on Echosonic Eldorado––that’s certainly not say that this record is boring. Dickerson manages to stretch himself within those confines to create many different feels and textures. The common theme with everything he does is that it’s all fun: You can’t help but grin when Dickerson plays. Songs with humor, like “40th and Plum” about the adventures of a simple hillbilly coming to town from the sticks, are lighthearted and awfully entertaining. It’s apparent that Dickerson was born to do this, from his versatile guitar work to his laid-back vocals and vintage rock n’ roll is Dickerson’s calling, and I hope keeps answering with tunes like these. –James Orme


Eli “Paperboy” Reed
My Way Home

Yep Roc
Street: 06.10
Eli “Paperboy Reed = J.C Brooks + Otis Redding + Wilson Picket

It’s interesting to think about a voice and what makes a great voice, because it’s essentially that person pouring themselves out—at least, when it’s done right. I feel that I know the vocalists I admire better than, say, the drummers I admire, but is that me taking a romantic point of view, or do we really get personality and character from the vocalist of a song? Eli “Paperboy” Reed is my Exhibit A when it comes to my theory. I can’t think of anyone singing soul today who is more stirring, more fervent and more earnest in their delivery than Reed. So much of Eli Reed comes through on My Way Home. Even the cover of  “Cut Ya Down” he makes all his own, so much so that I almost forgot that Johnny Cash and Elvis both did a version of this song. Reed’s version is something to come out of Muscle Shoals in the late ’60s—it’s so damn greasy.

Further proof that Reed is the real deal when it comes to singing with his full self: When he’s not touring and recording, he teaches gospel choir music to inner-city teens in Harlem because he believes that having that kind of creative outlet is important. My Way Home seems to be a new chapter for Reed, in that there is a new spirit in his writing and arrangements. In a way, it’s also a return to form, sounding closer to his debut record, Walkin’ and Talkin’, which definitely has a similar vintage sound. My Way Home carries a maturity and a weight that only comes from experience, which allows the music to use vintage elements without sounding like Reed is trying to sound like a recording from the ’60s. The title track is a great example of how Reed owns the song, but I can hear many influences, from Sam & Dave to Al Green. This soul song of praise is gutsy and powerful. This is Reed laying it all out and just going for it. If you’re looking for the rocker of the record, ”The Strangest Thing” is just what the doctor ordered. If you don’t feel the compulsion to get up and dance while listening to this tune, check the obituaries because you might be dead.

I love the world we live in, where artists like Leon Bridges, Charles Bradley and Eli Reed are going to be artists that people can see perform to have this music live and breathe in front of them. Reed has the ability to show audiences what soul music can do and just how compelling it can be. –James Orme