Apr 162012

It’s rather surprising that Dan Craig even has time these days to put out a new record. Besides being one of Denver’s premiere singer/songwriters, he’s also a med student, a husband, and recently a new father.

Actually, though, this gem of an EP, In Dust Bowls, already had the groundwork laid for it. According to Craig, this project (a collaboration with producer/engineer Jamie Mefford) was started and shelved several times over the past several years, and the current project has been basically complete for about a year. It just seemed that now was the right time to finish it up and release it.

In Dust Bowls is quite a digression from Dan Craig’s last project Alchemy (reviewed here)–a much more reflective, downtempo effort, with an atmospheric, almost dreamy quality to it (if acoustic folk can be thought of as “dreamy”, then this is what it sounds like). The six songs in progression tell a story of love lost, and found again, and for that reason the songs are best heard together in sequence, rather than individually.

I’ve given this record several spins now, and I like it more and more each time. Dan’s melodies are contagious, his lyricism creative and thought-provoking. In Dust Bowls has been a long time coming, but I for one am glad it is here.

Dan has permitted me to share the first track “Down My Legs” below. If you like it and want to hear more, the record is currently available as a download from Dan’s Bandcamp site, or from iTunes.

Dan Craig: “Down My Legs”


May 152011

Many people might be more familiar with the name Boulder Acoustic Society than they are with the name Aaron Keim. That’s because Boulder Acoustic Society has been making a name for itself as a progressive band in the bluegrass/roots/neo-folk world over the past several years.

But Keim (who happens to be the founder of B.A.S.) goes by yet another moniker when he’s flying solo: The Quiet American. And as The Quiet American, he has just released his second solo project, aptly titled The Quiet American, Vol. II. And if you listen to the record, and know a little of his story, you’ll discover that Aaron Keim is an old soul putting a modern twist on folk.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect to Keim’s work is that he literally brings history to life in the way he tackles his music. First of all–he makes most of his own instruments.  Secondly, the first installment of The Quiet American was initially recorded on a wax cylinder from the 1890’s (the new release uses more modern methods, but has a historic feel, nonetheless). And third–Keim isn’t afraid to weave traditional bluegrass tunes in with his original stuff.  Vol. II has a healthy blend of both.

And yet, somehow in bringing the past to life, by weaving subtle modern indie-rock elements into his stuff, Keim breathes new life into the music–and what is old is new again.  Pretty amazing, when you think about it.

But don’t take my word for it.  Have a listen to the opening track below.

The Quiet American: “I Will Be the One”

Buy The Quiet American, Vol. II on iTunes:
The Quiet American, Vol. II - The Quiet American

Apr 242011

Brand new on the radar…to the sound of (not so) much fanfare…comes Denver acoustic indie-folk band the whicker and pine.

(Doesn’t ANYONE use upper case anymore?)

Anyhow, just getting started, these guys already show some musical maturity on their debut self-titled EP (which you can download for free from here).  They have a laid-back sound that’s just perfect for a cloudy Sunday morning while enjoying a cup of coffee (which is precisely why–and when–I’m writing this blog post now).

In a recent post on the band’s blog, one of the band mates half-jokingly described their sound as “Indie Folk Melancholipop.”  But that really fits the vibe of the record. It’s just enough “indie” and “alt” to get your attention, but just enough “pop” to make it accessible. Plus, anyone who can come up with a genre name that rhymes with “lollipop” has to have something on the ball.

New bands always have room to grow, and that’s certainly the case here. But the whicker and pine has is already quite easy on the ears, and it will be interesting to see how their sound develops.  Meanwhile, take a listen to the opening track of their EP below, and if you like what you hear–go here to get the rest of it.

the whicker and pine: “stay awake”

Mar 312011

This band is already getting plenty of attention, but I just have to put in my two cents’: acoustic folk duo The Civil Wars is one of the best I’ve heard in quite some time. More than just the raw, minimal instrumentation and catchy melodies, these voices just go together.  John Paul White and Joy Williams have stumbled on a combination and chemistry that is more than just talent (which both have in spades, btw).  It’s a sound that exceeds the sum of its parts.

It’s almost ironic that their name is The Civil Wars, because they go so well together. And yet, you can hear a subtle tension and struggle within the music itself. Perhaps that’s what the name refers to.

Here’s the video from the title track of their record, Barton Hollow. Take a look/listen and discover why this new duo is already selling out shows all over the place.  If you like what you hear, at the present time you can get a free download of the song from the band’s website.

Sep 152010

The cool thing about the Internet and indie music is that you’re not limited by distance as to what you can find.  So here’s a spin on music you don’t see every day: a band in Germany, playing Americanized alt-folk, with a space theme.

I don’t make this stuff up, folks.

Their name is The Moonband. The name of their record is Songs We Like To Listen To While Traveling Through Space. They sing in English and play American folk. They wear space suits on their album art. (Don’t ask me where they got the space suits, but I’m guessing they didn’t come from NASA.)

Gimmicky? Perhaps. But the music isn’t.  If you listen to the record without all that space stuff in your brain, it’s just normal alt-folk, kind of quiet and reflective.  Whether you’re into the space theme or not, if you’re a fan of bands like bands like Iron and Wine, chance are you’ll be into this vibe.

The Moonband: “We Don’t Care”

Aug 122010

Gabrielle Louise is a best-kept-secret kind of singer/songwriter: not widely known, but when you hear her, you wonder why more people don’t know her. A young artist with an old soul, her jazz-infused folk style reveals a maturity that belies her years. Coming from a musical family, and with several DIY recordings already to her credit, she has the confidence of a seasoned pro.

Gabrielle’s latest latest effort, Mirror the Branches (due to release later this month), lives up to the standard of excellence those of us who know Gabrielle’s work have come to expect. At times light and airy, at other times low, jazzy and smoky, her vocals throughout the twelve-song collection are expressive and nearly flawless. The record covers a range of emotional ground, from the melencholy of “Desiree” to the tongue-in-cheek whimsy of “I’ll Turn Myself In Tomorrow”. Led by acoustic guitars, the instrumentation is understated, the overall tone reflective.

For me, the strongest songs are the folk-heavy tunes–and I admit a bit of bias here, as I prefer folk to jazz. The simple melody of “Strange Summer Snow” embeds itself deep in your brain (in a good way), and “Midnight Molasses” (a cover tune borrowed from Gabrielle’s partner-in-crime David Rynhart, who also contributes vocal and guitar on the record) is a deeply haunting tune that leaves me breathless each time I hear it.

Gabrielle is currently raising funds for the final printing of the CD, and for a minimum $25 contribution she will give an immediate download of the full recording, plus a hard copy of the CD when it is officially released.  You can get your exclusive download copy at Gabrielle’s website.  And for those of you in driving distance, Gabrielle Louise is having a CD release and social tango party (again, you have to know her) on Friday, August 27, 7:30 PM, at Aron Johnson’s Architectural Antiques Warehouse, 389 S. Lipan St. in Denver.

Gabrielle Louise: “Strange Summer Snow”