Playlist May 2012

Music is rolling up its sleeves. This month’s releases are as rootsy and down home as a kitchen table.

Ingrid Michaelson
Human Again
(Cabin 24/Mom + Pop)

Ingrid Michaelson makes quirky pop on a relatively small label. With her single “Maybe” from her 2009 release Everybody, she finally reached beyond cult status. Her newest reflects the most polished sound of all her albums, thanks in part to veteran producer David Kahne. Fortunately, Michaelson doesn’t veer too far toward the mainstream and retains her musical charms.

Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, Yim Yames
New Multitudes

New Multitudes is the first and may prove to be the best musical project to mark what would have been Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday this July. Jay Farrar of Son Volt and Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket are spearheading the project. Anders Parker of Varnaline and Will Johnson of Centro-matic round out the group. The songs Farrar and Yames wrote for these sessions are drawn from roughly 3,000 of Guthrie’s unfinished lyrics. Some tracks by Farrar, and others by Yames, sound a great deal like their other bands, but overall the music sounds very fresh.

Punch Brothers
Who’s Feeling Young Now?

The Punch Brothers is a group of young musicians who take a more aggressive and contemporary approach to country and bluegrass sounds. The band is obviously hopeful it can attain the kind of larger, hip audience that Mumford & Sons attracts, but the group is not merely trying to ride on the coattails of the new acoustic revival. They are all seasoned pros who play this genre of music for the pure love and joy of keeping American roots music alive.

Lyle Lovett
Release Me
(Lost Highway)

Lyle Lovett is one of the cornerstones of roots label Lost Highway. His albums for the label over the past 10 years are some of his best. The music feels as comfortable as a well-worn saddle. This new album includes wonderful covers of songs from genres beyond country, including jazz, rock, folk, blues and American standards. Check out the heartbreaking album finale, a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner Blues,” itself worth the price of admission.

Tank Full of Blues
(Blue Horizon Ventures)

Dion’s newest is his third blues album in six years, representing yet another major stylistic shift. This is a gritty, authentic, no-frills electric blues album and Dion is singing better then ever. His blistering guitar work is as important here as his exalted place as a songwriter and a singular vocalist. Check out the blues rap “Bronx Poem” that closes the album to hear Dion tell his story with truth, vitality and conviction.