Today’s New Albums: St. Paul & The Broken Bones, North Mississippi All-Stars, Anaïs Mitchell + More

Fruit Bats, Beirut and John Mayall also have new music out today.

By Team JamBase Jan 28, 2022 6:00 am PST

Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by St. Paul and The Broken Bones, North Mississippi Allstars, Anaïs Mitchell, Fruit Bats, Beirut and John Mayall. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones – The Alien Coast

Birmingham, Alabama’s St. Paul & The Broken Bones tried something different for The Alien Coast, an 11-track studio album out today on ATO Records. The octet recorded the LP in their hometown, where they worked with producer Matt Ross-Spang. Staying home gave the band nearly unlimited time to develop the material and expand their sound on what a press release describes as “their most ambitious work to date.”

The follow-up to 2018’s Young Sick Camellia marks the group’s fourth studio album. Frontman Paul Janeway was inspired by a varied array of influences on The Alien Coast including sci-fi stories and tales of Greek mythology as well as artwork and history books from the colonial period.

“The title actually came from reading about the history of the Gulf of Mexico, which is home for us,” Janeway explained in a press release. “When the settlers— or invaders, really—first came to the Gulf Coast they couldn’t figure out what it was, and started referring to it as the Alien Coast. That term really stuck with me, partly because it feels almost apocalyptic.”

North Mississippi Allstars – Set Sail

North Mississippi Allstars’ new album Set Sail arrived today via New West Records. NMA founders guitarist Luther Dickinson and drummer Cody Dickinson produced the follow up to their Grammy Award Nominated 2019 album Up and Rolling. Set Sail boasts contributions from vocalist Lamar Williams Jr. — son of late Allman Brothers Band bassist Lamar Williams — vocalist Sharisse Norman and bassist Jesse Williams.

On the album’s opening track, “Set Sail Part 1,” Luther said, “‘The water may rise but we shall set sail.’ Though the flood imagery is used to illustrate perseverance when times are hard, ‘Set Sail’ is truly about my respect for the first-generation American Freedom Rockers who are still with us, whose lives and music stands for open-minded and open-hearted freedom. Cody and I have been fortunate to play music with Mavis Staples, Phil Lesh, William Bell, and Blind Boys of Alabama and we strive to live up to their example. We have to prove to the elders that their fight will carry on and pass through the future generations.”

Stax legend William Bell contributed heavily to the song “Never Want To Be Kissed,” co-writing and co-producing the LP’s final advance single. Additionally, NMA shared the singles “See The Moon” and “Don’t We Have A Time.”

Anaïs Mitchell – Anaïs Mitchell

Multi-talented Anaïs Mitchell released a new self-titled album, marking her first solo LP in 10 years. The Vermont-based singer-songwriter recorded the follow-up to 2012’s Young Man In America with Mitchell’s Bonny Light Horseman bandmate, producer/multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman. The 10-track album includes contributions from Kaufman, as well as bassist/saxophonist Michael Lewis, drummer JT Bates, keyboardist Thomas Bartlett and The National/Big Red Machine guitarist Aaron Dessner. Nico Muhly contributed string and flute arrangements as well. Mitchell, who created the Tony Award-winning Broadway play Hadestown, shared the statement below regarding Anaïs Mitchell:

“I was nine months pregnant when the pandemic reached New York, so we made an 11th hour decision to leave and have the baby in Vermont. We left the city and had the baby a week later, and then like everyone, we were in the midst of this unprecedented stillness. It felt like I could see behind me: oh, there’s New York City. There’s Hadestown. There’s my life with just one kid. A certain kind of stress and expectations. In Vermont, we moved onto my family farm and lived in my grandparents’ old house, with a new baby. I’d look at pictures on my phone from a few months earlier and wonder, whose life was that? This record, and the songs that are on it, came out of that time. I got into a flow again that I hadn’t felt in a really long time.”

Fruit Bats – Sometimes a Cloud Is Just a Cloud: Slow Growers, Sleeper Hits And Lost Songs (2001–2021)

Fruit Bats released the rarities compilation, Sometimes a Cloud Is Just a Cloud: Slow Growers, Sleeper Hits And Lost Songs (2001–2021), through Merge Records. Issued in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the project helmed by Eric D. Johnson, the singer-songwriter (and member of Bonny Light Horseman along with Anaïs Mitchell and Josh Kaufman) chose the 23-tracks making up the double LP. Divided into distinct halves and presented in reverse chronological order, the first half is described as a good introduction to Fruit Bats, while the second half is a deeper dive for longtime fans.

The first part was culled from official previous releases, spanning “Glass in Your Feet” from the 2001 debut Echolocation through “The Bottom of It” off 2019’s Gold Past Life. Part two comes from Johnson’s archive of work accumulated over the past 20 years, such as rarities like 4-track demos of “Rainbow Sign” and “The Old Black Hole” as well as other early recorded versions of “Baby Bluebird,” “Barely Living Room” and “Feather Bed,” along with a cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker.” Among those who appear on various tracks include Josh Kaufman, Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, as well as Joe Russo, Josh Mease, Nathan Vanderpool, Graeme Gibson, Ron Lewis, Sam Wagster, Chris Sherman, Jim Becker, Gillian Lisee, Brian Kantor, David Dawda, Kevin Barker, the late Richard Swift and others. Johnson stated the following regarding the comp:

“I love how the best-laid plans are never what you think they’re going to be. I love the unpredictability of it. Recording and writing songs is often like, ‘Wow, that is not where I was expecting that to go.’ My whole career has been like that. This was not where I expected to go. But I mean that in a really good way.”

Beirut – Artifacts

The history and evolution of Beirut, a project masterminded by Zach Condon, is documented aurally on Artifacts. Included on the double album, which Beirut unveiled today through Condon’s Pompeii Records imprint, are 26 tracks spanning Zach’s first forays into songwriting to material more akin to the music for which the band became known. There’s B-sides, early Beirut EPs and previously unreleased songs.

“When the decision came to re-release this collection, I found myself digging through hard drives looking for something extra to add to the compilation,” Condon explained. “What started as a few extra unreleased tracks from my formative recording years quickly grew into an entire extra records-worth of music from my past, and a larger project of remixing and remastering everything I found for good measure.”

John Mayall – The Sun Is Shining Down

John Mayall released his album The Sun Is Shining Down today through Forty Below Records. Forty Below founder Eric Corne produced the new album at Strawhorse Studios as well as The Doors’ Robby Krieger’s Horse Latitudes in Los Angeles. The Sun Is Shining Down sees the Godfather Of British Blues characteristically welcoming a host of stellar guest guitarists including Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell on Bernard Allison’s “Chills And Thrills” and Marcus King on Mayall original “Can’t Take No More.” Buddy Miller delivers baritone guitar on the Bobby Rush-penned “I’m As Good As Gone” while Chicago’s Melvin Taylor and Austin’s Carolyn Wonderland also contribute six-string to the LP. The record also features ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro as well as Mayall’s longtime rhythm section of bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport.

“I couldn’t be happier with the new record,” Mayall said in a press release. “I can’t wait to share it with my fans. Each of these special guests brings something unique to the album, and our team works so well together. I think you can hear that chemistry in the music.”

John adds his own iconic vocals, harmonica and keyboards to the mix with Corne noting, “John shines throughout this album, exuding joy and gratitude that are infectious. We all want to give that back to him.”

Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.

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