Album Review: All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do by Milk Carton Kids

AlbumAll the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do 
Artist: Milk Carton Kids
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Just Look at Us Now
  • Mourning in America
  • One More for the Road
  • Big Time
  • I’ve Been Loving You


The folk duo of  Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan are reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel – tight harmonies, introspective lyrics, and understated instrumentation.  This is the first album recorded with a backing band, but nevertheless the instruments are restrained, adding resonant bass notes, thumping bass drums, and country twang only to support and emphasize the vocals.  Of course, the instrumental performances should not be overlooked, and the 10 minute long “One More for the Road” is highlighted by solos that are not at all indulgent.  While much of the album is inward-looking as you’d expect from contemplative folkies, “Mourning in America” is a standout political track.  I don’t listen to folk music nearly as often as I did about 15-20 years ago, but this is a standout album.

Rating: ****


Monthly Mixtape – February 2018

I haven’t posted any Songs of the Week this year, and I’ve decided to retire SOTW and instead make a monthly post of new songs I like.  Hence the term “Monthly Mixtape.”

The title song off of Courtney Marie Andrews upcoming album is “May Your Kindness Remain”


The James Hunter Six provides Daptone soul in “I Got Eyes”

Australian electronica artists Jono Ma and Dreems collaborate on “Can’t Stop my Dreaming (Of You)”

Parliament returns with their first track in decades “I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me (feat. Scarface)” and it’s funky in a 21st century way.

As always, let me know what you like, what you don’t like, and what other songs I should be listening to.

Album Review: Ruins by First Aid Kit

ArtistFirst Aid Kit
Release Date: 19 January 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rebel Heart
  • Ruins

ThoughtsRuins is the latest release from the Swedish folk rock duo of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg.  I’m inextricably drawn to close, female harmonies and lush instrumentation in all cases, and this is no exception.  All the same, I think that First Aid Kit can create music with more bite, and there’s something missing here.  Thus it’s good album, worth a listen, but not as great as it could be.
Rating: **1/2

Album Reviews: Fever Ray, Blitzen Trapper, The Barr Brothers

This week, quick thoughts on three new albums I listened to today.

Artist: Fever Ray
Release Date: 2017 October 27
Favorite Tracks: “Wanna Sip” and “IDK About You”
Thoughts: Fever Ray is the solo project of Swedish electronic musician Karin Dreijer, also of the duo The Knife. The album has some sick beats and synths, but Dreijer’s voice is unpleasant and the frequent profanity seems to be juvenile attempt to be shocking.
Rating: **1/2

Album: Wild and Reckless
Artist: Blitzen Trapper
Release Date: 2017 November 3
Favorite Tracks: “Joanna” and “Stolen Hearts”
Thoughts: A twangier, pure country outing from Blitzen Trapper grew out of a “rock opera” staged in their native Portland, OR that tells a sci-fi love story of two kids on the run.
Rating: **1/2

Album: Queens of the Breakers
Artist: The Barr Brothers
Release Date: 2017 October 13
Favorite Tracks: “You Would Have to Lose Your Mind” and “It Came To Me”
Thoughts: The Montreal-based Americana jam band with a harp received good reviews for their innovative sound, but the album sounds kind of like generic folk-pop to me.  Not my thing.
Rating: **

Album Review: The Wild by Kris Delmhorst

AlbumThe Wild
Artist: Kris Delmhorst
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts: I’ve been following Delmhort’s career for years (decades, actually!) and while she’s no stranger to the ballad, her albums usually have a fair share of raucous, upbeat tunes as well.  The Wild finds her in a more contemplative mood as every track slow, emphasizing her voice and introspective lyrics, with a touch of a country twang.  It may not be up there with my favorite Delmhorst recordings, but it’s still pretty darn good.
Rating: ***1/2

Podcast of the Week: “Music of the Civil Rights Movement” by Sound Opinions

Show 534 of WBEZ Chicago’s music show Sound Opinions combines some of my favorite things: music, history, and social justice!  Hosts Jim and Greg discuss the importance of music to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and play uninterrupted tracks of brilliant songs such as “Mississippi Goddamn” and “A Change is Gonna Come.”

This is a brilliant episode of a consistently good radio program.

Listen here:

Song of the Week: “Monterrey” by The Milk Carton Kids

I heard The Milk Carton Kids for the first time last week at the Green River Festival.  The California folk duo offers beautiful harmonies reminiscent of The Everly Brothers or Simon & Garfunkel.  Listen to the melancholy beauty of “Monterrey,” the title track from their latest album.

Songs of the Week: “Her Majesty’s Socialist Request,” “Melding of the Minds,” and “Poem Found in the Pocket of an Amazon”

This is one of those weeks where just one song is not jumping out at me as THE song of the week, but there are a handful of contenders, so I’m just going to throw out a grab bag of songs of the week.  No commonalities here other than I would probably like these songs for their titles alone.

“Her Majesty’s Socialist Request” – RJD2

This track by Philadelphia-based producer RJD2 is a great sonic piece of instrumental electronica/hip-hop.

“Melding of the Minds” – Deltron 3030 (featuring Zach De La Rocha)

I was already drawn to the sound of this track which is reminiscent of 90’s era political rap at it’s most ardent, but the guest appearance of Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De Lo Rocha put it over the top.

“Poem Found in the Pocket of an Amazon” – My Bubba

Mellow out now with My Bubba, an Icelandic/Swedish folk duo, whose quirky slow tunes remind me of Jolie Holland


What are you listening to this week?  The floor is open.

Song of the Week: “Delicate Cycle” by The Uncluded

I didn’t want to like this song.  Kimya Dawson can be excessively twee and the whole rap-twined-with-soft-music dichotomy is played out.  But ultimately The Uncluded’s “Delicate Cycle” won me over with it’s play on words, interweaving stories of lunch ladies, launderers, and apparently vivisection, as well as a catchy melody won me over.

Concert Review: Butterflyfish

On Saturday, June 27th we saw the new band Butterflyfish at the Wellesley Village Church.  We were enticed by a listserv description of the band that plays a mix of folks, gospel, bluegrass, and country (and reggae, not mentioned in the invite) targeted to children and families:

There is an underlying theme of spirituality – as parents we were looking for music that underscored the idea that we are all rooted in spirituality without being heavy handed or laced with synthesizers! Couldn’t find any so we wrote our own!

As an added bonus, a musician we like a lot, Marc Erelli – a fine singer/songwriter, folk, country, troubadour – would be playing with the band.  Erelli must be one of the most generous musicians around and really like performing, because he plays with everyone!

We were late for the show but glad we made it.  The band performed standards like “Amazing Grace” and “This Little Light of Mine” along with some lovely originals.  I’m fond of the song “Music” which has the chorus:

We are going to a place where music falls and fills up everything. Though it might be a long time, but it’s going to be all right because we’ve already started to sing.

The band members Matthew Myer Boulton, Zoë Krohne, and Elizabeth Myer Boulton sing some lovely harmonies and keep things upbeat and entertaining.  Even my son who is a non-stop bundle of energy sat still on my lap for several songs.  Peter got up to dance and run around the sanctuary during the encore but even then was really enjoying the music.  The instrumentalists were great too, with Mark Erelli on guitar, Zack Hickman on bass and Charlie Rose on banjo.  Erelli also sang lead on “I’ll Be There” in tribute to Michael Jackson, which was far better than the Mariah Carey version.

After the show there was a reception with church punch and cookies.  We also picked up a copy of the Butterflyfish band album “Ladybug“.  I suggest you do to if you like folk music, gospel and children’s music, or any of the above.

Remembering Odetta

I don’t usually do celebrity obituaries on this blog, but I want to make an exception for the folk musician Odetta who died yesterday at the age of 77.  She was a talented musician with a powerful voice and amazing guitar skills.  I call her a “folk musician” but she adeptly performed and interpreted all types of music — blues, jazz, spirituals, and folk ballads from all over the world.  It’s quite impressive to hear a black woman sing The Foggy Dew, a song about the Irish rebellion.  Like other artists of the Folk Song Revival of the 50’s & 60’s, Odetta dedicated her efforts to the Civil Rights movement and other positive social change.

Just watch this clip below of Odetta singing and strumming “Water Boy” and try not to be blown away.  I dare you.

I first became acquainted with Odetta through a boxed set of LP’s that my mother owned called Folk Song and Minstrelsy, which despite the odd name was a collection of artists of the Folk Revival.  One entire record of the four-disc set was dedicated to Odetta songs.  I’m particularly fond of “No More Cane on the Brazos” which demonstrates Odetta unique guitar skills.

On March 18, 2000 I saw her perform at Club Passim in Cambridge.  I particularly remember her standing in the middle of the audience singing a cappella, her voice filling the room.  I also remember that Susan & I were the youngest people there who weren’t brought along by our parents.  After the show, I spoke with Odetta and she noticed the age discrepancy.  I told her about listening to my mother’s record and she responded:

“Ah, propaganda!”

That night I bought a copy of her album To Ella (dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald, and do I ever wish I saw her perform when I had the chance).  Odetta signed it:

“To Liam —
Go Well —
Stay Well —

Where the Monkey Craps in the Buckwheat (concert review)

Last night I was fortunate to see folk singer/songwriter Peter Mulvey play a set at the Passim Folk Music and Cultural Center. Apparently, the last time I went to a concert it was also Peter Mulvey as reviewed on this blog a year ago (before the baby was born, but not before I was married). I sat with my friend Craig as well as his friend Sheila who I met for the first time. Sadly, Susan was not able to attend because our baby Peter had a fever.   One day we’ll take Peter to see Peter.

Beyond brilliant guitar playing and lyrics, it’s a joy to see Peter Mulvey because he tells great stories between songs.  Some of the best are about his father Frank, who apparently used the phrase “I told him I know where the monkey craps in the buckwheat.”  Frank Mulvey tried to defend this as a commonly-used phrase, which it isn’t, but it should be and I’m going to work it into my everyday conversation.  Peter Mulvey also told tales about his second No Gasoline Tour, where he traveled between shows in Wisconsin on bicycle.  Next year he promises to ride to Boston.

Mulvey played a great set with many unfamiliar songs – some new songs of his own and a lot of great covers.  The complete set list is below.  The titles of songs #3, #4, & #14 are my best guesses.

Openers: Ryan Fitzsimmons (guitar) with Ian Goldstein (mandolin)

  1. Stranded in a Limousine (Paul Simon)
  2. If Love is Not Enough
  3. I Go Mmm-Mmm-Mmm
  4. Raven on the Roof
  5. The Kids in the Square
  6. Old Fashioned Hat (Anais Mitchell)
  7. Health Food Girl
  8. Welcome Back (John Sebastian) – with Ian Goldstein
  9. Easiest Thing to Do – with Ian Goldstein
  10. Hang Down Your Head (Tom Waits) – with Ian Goldstein
  11. The Knuckleball Suite – with Ian Goldstein
  12. Dynamite Bill
  13. Shirt
  14. Black Rabbit (instrumental)
  15. Mailman
  16. Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, and Far Away From Home

Encore: All You Need is Love (Lennon/McCartney)

Concert Review: Peter Mulvey at Club Passim

Craig, Susan and I caught the first performance of Peter Mulvey at Club Passim in Cambridge on Thursday night. Peter Mulvey is a great singer/songwriter folk musician from Wisconsin who also has ties with Boston where he used to perform in the MBTA stations. Susan & I were fortunate enough to catch him recording his cover songs album Ten Thousand Mornings at Davis Square Station but the songs we saw recorded didn’t make it to the album. We’ve also seen him perform at various venues around Boston usually with his friend David Goodrich as well as in the trio Redbird with Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucalt.

Mulvey is an excellent introspective songwriter and a talented guitarist. This may be the first time we’ve seen him perform all alone, and despite it being just him and his acoustic guitar, it sounded like an entire band was playing. This was especially true in the number he opened with “Wings of the Ragman” where if I couldn’t see it with my own eyes I would swear there were at least two guitars playing.

In addition to an excellent performance, Peter Mulvey is a great storyteller. Last month he toured Wisconsin on bicycle towing his guitar on a trailer behind him. One day on his journey he came upon a very defensive redwing blackbird who flew straight at him and bounced off his helmet. He also told a story about finding something in his basement that ended with this brilliant quote: “Disorder in my basement, that’s not misery, that’s America!” (NOTE: both Craig and Susan heard “water” not “disorder” but I like my version better).

Here is the complete setlist (songs 6,7,8, 11 & 12 are new songs or older songs I’m not familiar so I’m not sure if the titles are correct):

  1. Wings of the Ragman
  2. Me & Albert
  3. The Trouble With Poets (he improvised some new, clever lyrics about Sylvia Plath into this song)
  4. Abilene (The Eisenhower Waltz)
  5. The Knuckleball Suite
  6. Dynamite Bill (apparenty based on a true story of someone Peter Mulvey’s dad knew. He shared a poetic email from his father about Dynamite Bill)
  7. The Kids in the Square
  8. Mailman
  9. Girl in the Hi-Tops
  10. You and Me and the 10,000 Things
  11. Gasoline (Smell the Future, per Jonathan below)
  12. Instrumental piece (Black Rabbit, per Jonathan below)
  13. Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies
  14. Charlie
  15. The Dreams
  16. 29-Cent Head
  17. Words Too Small To Say
  18. Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad and Far Away From Home
  19. Encore: Our Love Is Here to Stay

I’m only disappointed that he didn’t play “Marty & Lou” because these days, these days I tell you, these days it’s all about the monkeys.