by Brian Baker
35 days ago
If Axl Rose announced he was planning the next Guns 'N Roses album as a tribute to Tony Orlando and Dawn, that would be only slightly more surprising than Matt Baumann's left turn from his Ambient Jazz saxophone tone poetry to the sparsely appointed Americana released under his reimagined guise as WolfCryer.
Oddly enough, when Baumann defected from saxophone to banjo, the quality that linked his two disparate musical directions was a spartan sense of atmospherics and an expansively moody palette; while the outcomes couldn't have been more different, there was a fascinatingly similar philosophical link between his two sonic identities.
As WolfCryer, Baumann has been slightly more in tune with the singer/songwriters to which he swore fandom back in his tone/drone Jazz days (Warren Zevon, Tom Waits and Jason Molina were particular favorites), and over the past three years of his newly established Folk/Roots persona, he has managed to amass a catalog of songs that more than amply proves the wisdom of his career shift. His 2012 self-titled WolfCryer debut turned a lot of heads in the local Folk community, and Baumann spent the subsequent year working on his chops and making a new name for himself in a crowded scene that always seems to make room for quality purveyors.
Earlier this year, Baumann released the fruits of his most recent labor, the four song EP Wild Spaces, which came on the heels of a pair of EPs in late 2013, The Long Ride Home and Hell's Coming Down. The three brief but potent releases showed Baumann expanding his sonic possibilities as he incorporated more acoustic guitar and harmonica into his songs and left the banjo as an infrequent but still welcome guest. Baumann's proposed full-length debut, originally slated for this past summer, hasn't yet materialized but in the meantime, he's whetted our appetites with a new eight-song WolfCryer EP, The Prospect of Wind.
Like many of his avowed heroes, Baumann turns his songwriting talents toward society's downtrodden on The Prospect of Wind, with a particular interest in the personally felt ravages of war. It is an age old topic of literature and song, because no matter how sophisticated mankind becomes at the destruction of life, the simple desolation of the survivors never seems to change to any great degree. To that end, Baumann channels his inner Dylan in the lyrics and the cadence of the EP's title track ("There's an ember in the kindling, from a cracked and careless hand/Just waiting for the moment to rise and scorch the land"), nimbly displays both his love for and his study of Warren Zevon on "The War" and "When I Go," and waves his Springsteen flag with pride and admiration on "Box of Bones" and "Both Hands on the Plow."
As has been the case from the start of his relatively short but extremely potent tenure as WolfCryer, Baumann has no trouble notching his songs with some of the characteristics of his favorite singer/songwriters, but he does it in the constant pursuit of his own musical identity. You may detect a glimmer of some of his monolithic predecessors in the songs that comprise The Prospect of Wind, but you'll come away knowing that you've experienced another great WolfCryer album.
WolfCryer's CD release show for The Prospect of Wind is Friday night at the Southgate House Revival in the Revival Room. Admission is $10 and the show starts at 9 p.m.
Tuesday • 20th Century Theater
0 Comments · Tuesday, June 3, 2014
If there’s a commemorative tablet
somewhere inscribed with the names of the most unlikely people to be
drawn into the Grateful Dead’s musical universe, Jackie Greene should be
chiseled on it along with Pop/Jazz pianist Bruce Hornsby and former
Tubes keyboardist Vince Welnick.
Oct. 13 • MOTR Pub
0 Comments · Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Easton’s released a slew of
Americana-flavored records since parting ways with Haynes Boys in the
late ’90s, each time touring across America and Europe, playing for the
type of small but mostly appreciative crowds that might discourage
Sept. 24 • Southgate House Revival (Sanctuary Room)
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
One spin through O’ Be Joyful
provides plenty of evidence as to what keeps drawing the faithful and
converting the uninitiated. Ranging from twangy Folk to amped-up Country
to full-bore Americana stomp, Shovels & Rope channel John Doe and
Exene Cervenka channeling Timbuk 3 channeling Johnny Cash and June
Aug. 25 • Whispering Beard Folk Festival
0 Comments · Tuesday, August 20, 2013
It’s heartwarming that, in an age when
new musicians jumpstart their careers via hokey TV talent shows and
gimmicky YouTube videos, Folk/Americana singer/songwriter Joe Pug has
chosen a different way.
Cincinnati’s Mark Utley simultaneously drops the fourth Magnolia Mountain album and his solo debut
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Cincinnati Americana ensemble Magnolia Mountain has always exhibited a
broad sonic diversity, moving easily from Country to Folk to to twangy Rock. Frontman Mark Utley has decided to use his solo debut as a
repository for the more Country aspects of his writing spectrum, leaving
the heavier, bluesier, funkier tracks for Magnolia Mountain.
Sept. 22 • Madison Theater
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 19, 2012
You know who there aren’t enough of in America? Guys like Paul Thorn. Thorn plays a loud version of Americana, a bluesy, Southern Rock. His
lyrics often illustrate stories about rough lives, hard times and rowdy
women, making him a sort of funkier Johnny Cash.
July 18 • The Redmoor
0 Comments · Monday, July 16, 2012
It’s not hard to believe that Hayes Carll is
from Houston; it seems he embodies so many great things about the music of
Texas. A country drawl mixed with Rock & Roll, Carll’s most recent album, KMAG YOYO, was the Americana Music
Association’s No. 1 album in 2011. His strength really lies within his
songwriting; his song “Another Like You” won the American Songwriter’s No. 1
by Brian Baker
Posted In: Reviews
at 11:16 AM | Permalink
It has become both fashionable and profitable for artists in the later stages of their careers to release albums comprised of old standards or covers of instantly recognizable Pop hits. Leave it to Neil Young to follow that convention and then knock it upside its head. On Americana, Young resurrects Crazy Horse, his longtime and long dormant backing band and the foil for realizing some of his grimiest, grittiest Garage Rock fantasies, with the express purpose of revisiting some of America’s most beloved Folk odes, Blues tales and campfire singalongs.The irony of the album’s title is that while Young retains the familiar lyrics to chestnuts like “Oh Susannah,” “High Flyin’ Bird,” “Tom Dula,” and “Jesus’ Chariot” (better known as “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain”), he completely guts the songs’ classic melodies in favor of Crazy Horse’s noisy bluster and squall, reconfiguring the jaunty tunes to fit his well documented musical universe. There is a seriousness of intent to Americana (Folk and Blues have long detailed the country’s ills in song and Young has selected an interesting set list in that context) but there is also a hootenanny jam quality to the sessions; the songs typically end with comments by Young and the band about the sweet chaos they’ve just created. The exceptions are fascinating; although the standard Crazy Horse murk and howl are evident on The Silhouettes’ “Get a Job,” Young and company retain the Doo-Wop hit’s famous backing vocals and melody lines, a pattern repeated on “Travel On,” “Wayfarin’ Stranger” and “This Land is Your Land” (because how many liberties can you take with Woody Guthrie?). Young and Crazy Horse are having so much fun on Americana, it almost plays like a Jimmy Fallon sketch, but clearly the fun is in the performance and not at the expense of the song, although finishing with “God Save the Queen” (and a children’s chorus singing the American rewrite, “My Country ’Tis of Thee”) could easily be perceived as a pointed and appropriate political jab. Whether playing anarchic deconstructionists or faithful translators, Americana is tattooed with Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s indelible and singular stamp.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The local Roots music scene and its
fans have a cool new music venue to check out. This Friday-Sunday is the
grand opening of Plain Folk Café, a converted two-room schoolhouse
(originally built in 1913) featuring coffee, beer, food and regular live
music from area Folk, Bluegrass, Americana and acoustic acts.