October is filled with a rich harvest of singer-songwriter-based albums that may be flying under the radar screen, but shouldn’t be missed.
Schuyler Fisk—The Good Stuff (Cassidy Barks)
The daughter of actress Sissy Spacek and art director Jack Fisk has come up with a dazzling debut. Slick, glossy LA pop-rock is the musical setting for Fisk’s inviting voice, which is in many ways a more full-bodied nod to that of Colbie Caillat. The song “Hello,” which has been receiving considerable airplay for months on in-the-know radio stations, is a once-in-a-lifetime blend of cheerful pop and unforgettable sing-along vocals, which should have been the biggest hit of the summer. What a debut!
Steve Earle—Townes (New West)
Steve Earle is on a roll and has become an American musical treasure. This collection of covers of his mentor and running buddy Townes Van Zandt will be the yardstick by which all other Townes tribute albums are measured. His son, Justin Townes, shows that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree on his own album, Midnight At the Movies (Bloodshot), which has great songs yet his own, sweeter unmistakable style.
Dan Hicks—Tangled Tales (Surfdog)
This appropriately titled album from one of the few originators of the seminal San Francisco scene who is still going strong, is as good as anything that Hicks has ever done. Those tangled tales are told with a wry truth that would be scary if they weren’t also so hilarious. Hicks is the Dean Martin of old western freaks. God bless him.
Slaid Cleaves—Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away (Music Road)
Cleaves has apparently not forgotten the damage the last presidential administration did. Sometimes sad, often angry, Cleaves is fast becoming a bard of the bitter broadside, yet he can write a great melody.
Yim Yames—Tribute (ATO)
He can change his name from Jim James to Yim Yames, but there’s no mistaking the haunting voice of one of America’s premier bands, My Morning Jacket. This six-song EP of the music of George Harrison is a stripped-down, echoey, wistful, acoustic love letter to the spiritual Beatle. Yames has chosen four songs from All Things Must Pass and one each from Revolver and the “White Album.” Somehow he miraculously reflects the searching pain and quiet beauty of Harrison at his best on this tribute that was done for all the right reasons.