Meet what very well might be the first race horse in history named after a Twitter handle, Indy Rocker Girl. Those are my nieces and nephew checking out the foal their Grandpa named in my honor (endearingly botched in only the way my Dad could manage.) I got this photo in my inbox just before heading out to see J. Tillman last night at Cafe du Nord and the combination of the two elements really made me homesick.
I think it was the pedal guitar that got me. It does every time. Listening to the talented Mr. Tillman’s beautifully plucked guitar and weeping sounds of the pedal steel guitar, it finally hit me why I’m such a sucker for it. It’s home. As much as I grew up on the alternative sounds of WOXY, so I did country and bluegrass music in my Dad’s pick up truck. Regular pilgrimages across the border to the Kentucky Bluegrass Festival made me a lifelong fan of the banjo, pedal guitar and heartfelt lyrics.
J. Tillman and his band are just that – and more. Their music is honest and real. In a time when so much indie music seems contrived and trite, it’s a refreshing respite. I had such a feeling of contentment after that show. My chicken soup for the soul, I guess. If only I could have had a patch of real bluegrass to sink my bare feet into….
Whew, I’ve been wanting to get this post up for about 3 weeks now, but you know how it goes – life prevails and hobbies sometimes take a back seat. Well, here it is. My mid-year Best Albums of 2009…so far. Out of all the music I’ve sorted through thus far this year, these are the albums that bubbled to the top, the ones I happily came back to again and again. They may not all be Pitchfork approved (or even rated for that matter), but they worked for me.
I’m not going to go through the diligence of ranking them, so I’ve listed them in alphabetical order. I’ll save the ranking exercise for the end of year round up. Until then, I hope you find some new music to enjoy!
Band of Skulls Baby Darlin Doll Face Honey “Death by Diamonds and Pearls”
Artist: J. Tillman Album: Vacilando Territory Blues File Under: New Folk, Singer/Songwriter Recommended if You Like: Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, Bon Iver, Nick Drake, Ryan Adams, Great Lake Swimmers Featured Track: “First Born”
While he may be known best as a member of the Fleet Foxes, J.Tillman is an accomplished solo artist with quite an impressive body of work under his belt. He continues to release material under his own name and has often been compared to Nick Drake, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and Elliott Smith.
Vacilando Territory Blues is his fifth album and features other Fleet Foxes members Casey Wescott and Christian Wargo. And you can hear their influence in the music – or vice versa. The album is beautiful and does sound a lot like Fleet Foxes, without the multi-layered harmonies. Firstborn is probably the most reminiscent of his side project work with the now famous Seattle band. He does pull out some full band, blues-tinged tracks like “New Imperial Grand Blues” to keep you on your toes, but most of the album is quiet and sparse which bodes well for late night listens.