I popped the CD by local folk duo Sunlight into the player. I braced myself sufficiently—having sized up the CD's wistful cover, persistently happy song titles and the band's name—for some god-awful variety of husband and wife, Edie Brickell pukenanny. While there may be a superfluous number of joyous paeans, as well as the happiest set of song titles ever seen on one album, husband and wife Aaron Lewis and Paula Manning-Lewis temper their joy with a sound that draws from a darker period of Euro-folk music. Life is Good brings to mind a style wherein Manning’s voice resembles that of a young Sandy Denny during her tenure with Pentangle, simultaneously joyful and doom-laden. Sunlight crafts occasionally sinister, always interesting and definitely-not-Americana-styled songs that are a breath of fresh air amidst the present bombardment of “Americana” folk. I begrudge the happiness these two share, however kudos for embracing an alternate tradition. Folk fans, seek this out.
Dad & SteveSolid State(Lorchestral Recording Company)
Steve Hammond—of the soon-to-be-no-more local legends Leeches of Lore—seems determined to leave Dirt City only after thoroughly infecting the populace with his retro-future combination of '70s rock (imagine if Alice Cooper wrote Edgar Winter's “Frankenstein”) and a nowsville sound just this side of a sober Royal Trux. From opening track “Free Range”—a song that once and for all establishes Steve Hammond as the most un-stupid-sounding, most-righteous heavy metal screamer in the region—all the way to (both sides of this cassette-only release are “B”) “This Pony Don't Stop For Nothin'” Steve Hammond and Eric Lisausky (of psych band YOU) succeed like Owsley's acid. Best release so far this year. Dad & Steve will be appearing at Sister on Feb. 9.
Lone PiñonDias Felices: String Music of America's Southwest and Mexico's North(LM Duplication)
Anyone who has the good fortune to call Northern New Mexico their home will recognize at least some if not all of the songs on Dias Felices. Though Northern New Mexico's “Spanish” culture may be tightly interwoven with these songs, the tunes in this collection are sine qua non for family gatherings, weddings, funerals, meals and parties in any or all of New Mexico's towns and cities; from the traditional wedding song “El Canario” to “El Corrido de Rio Arriba” which describes events of the 1968 Tierra Amarilla courthouse raid. Everone will recognize the haunting, cautionary tale of an insane woman who either drowned her kids, lost her kids, wants to drown someone else's kids or wants to scare your kids away from arroyos before they drown. BINGO! ... “La Llorona.” Jeremy Barnes (Hawk and a Hacksaw, Neutral Milk Hotel) proves his LM Duplication label capable of producing—with able help from Lone Piñon—a ethnomusicological collection that would make Folkways proud.