For all the deep root folkies, hipsters, nics, and cowboy jokers there’s some mighty fine new music out today. A second album, “Down In The Barnyard,” from Rachel Brooke, which is as straight up and unadorned as creek whiskey in a mason jar. Its filled with songs about tough women (don’t cross ’em, don’t boss ’em) sung over plaintive banjo strums, boxcar rhythms, bottleneck blues, and, what is that, a pump organ? Nice. There’s a Maybelle Carter feel here, nothing fancy, nothing superfluous, nothing artificial. There’s also a touch of the gothic here, but that too is keeping with the old parlor days. I don’t suppose there’s a place for Ms. Brooke on the radio, beyond community stations, and it breaks my heart that she won’t be breaking yours. If you like it, tell someone. It’s a rule.
I know that Americana folks haven’t jumped on the singles wagon, and that’s too bad. The artists are doing a pretty good job at putting out alt. tracks and one off’s that don’t necessarily make it onto a new release. Both Dave Alvin and Bonnie “Prince” Billy released singles today, and both are very good.
Mr. Alvin isn’t breaking new ground with the talkin’ country blues of “Harlan County Line,” but, like all of his songs, it comes from the gut. It’s a story song that’s ominous and compelling and creeps under my skin in the same way that Dylan’s “Isis” does. Men seeking women, money, refuge, or just seeking?
Will Oldham also put out a single today. All the proceeds, it should be added, are going to facilitate and educate Haitian access to clean filtered water. For more information, go to www.edgeoutreach.com. The song is a jangly, softly clanging cloud piece which kicks of the ground about halfway though with a ethereal, and dreamy trumpet solo which almost seems to disappear completely, like a balloon floating away, but just before it’s out of sight a swooning falsetto brings it all back down to a thumping conclusion. Beautiful.