Today’s New Albums: Oliver Wood, Mdou Moctar, Lord Huron, Rising Appalachia & More
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 Oliver Wood, Mdou Moctar, Rising Appalachia, Lord Huron, John Hiatt & Jerry Douglas Band, Allison Russell, The Tragically Hip, Robert Finley, Quantic & Eddie Roberts and Henhouse Prowlers. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Oliver Wood – Always Smilin’
The Scoop: The Wood Brothers frontman Oliver Wood today unveils his debut solo album, Always Smilin’, through Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers. Oliver enlisted a number of guests to contribute to the 11-track LP including his King Johnson co-founder Chris Long, Wood Brothers band mate Jano Rix, MMW keyboardist John Medeski, TTB vocalist/guitarist Susan Tedeschi and drummer Tyler Greenwell, Hiss Golden Messenger’s Phil Cook, Nashville music scene fixture Phil Madeira and singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton.
“The year before the pandemic, people would come through Nashville where I live and I’d set up a co-write or a jam in our studio, just to do some stuff outside of my own band. There wasn’t an album in mind. I just wanted to be creative. But when the pandemic happened, the songs started building up,” Wood stated. “You’d be surprised at the music you write and the chances you take when there’s nothing at stake,” Oliver added. “The best art is an accident. You wind up accessing a different part of your brain and trusting your instincts, rather than relying on control. I’ve learned it would serve you well to be like that in everyday life, especially when you’re dealing with stresses and crises.”
Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime
The Scoop: Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar and company released their new album Afrique Victime today via Matador Records. The follow up to Moctar’s 2019 LP Ilana: The Creator sees Mdou Moctar assembling his band of the same name — longtime guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim and bassist Mikey Coltun — and “boldly reforging contemporary Saharan music and ‘rock music’ by melding guitar pyrotechnics, full-blast noise, and field recordings with poetic meditations on love, religion, women’s rights, inequality, and Western Africa’s exploitation at the hands of colonial powers,” as per a press release. Coltun produced Afrique Victime in a number of locales including studios, apartments, hotel rooms and backstage areas at venues as well as in Moctar’s home country of Niger. The band previewed the nine-song set with album opener “Chismiten” and followed with “Tala Tannam.” Both songs show off the band’s range from the galloping Tuareg rock of “Chismiten” to the largely acoustic “Tala Tannam,” which translates to “your tears.” Mdou Moctar also shared the title track as well as the final pre-release single, “Taliat.”
Rising Appalachia – The Lost Mystique Of Being In The Know
The Scoop: Suprise! A previously unannounced new Rising Appalachia album, The Lost Mystique Of Being The Know, arrived today. The new record was recorded by multi-instrumentalist sisters Leah Smith and Chloe Smith, along with bassist David Brown, percussionist Biko Casini and n’goni and talking drum player Arouna Diarra. The group released the non-album single “Hungry World” featuring Aja Black earlier this year. Prior to that, the band’s last full length was 2019’s Leylines. Rising Appalachia shared a statement regarding the nine-songs on The Lost Mystique Of Being In The Know, writing:
The lost mystique of being in the know – this is a quality of rarity birthed from curiosity, a precious mineral uncovered only by those willing to enter the underworlds, while up above the glut of rootless and empty information triggers landslides that bury the topography of a world of wonder. This is in praise of terra incognita and the hand-drawn maps that lead into it, the hare’s softly worn paths through the thorny thickets, the depths unplumbed by satellite, the melodies that only emerge in the dark of night. It’s a waning eros and era that we’d do well to not forget: the coveted cassette with the music you’d wait years to find the name of, the circled springs in the pages of an atlas under the backseat of your car, the woods walks in which you learned the wise ways of those who came before. Mouth to ear transmission, hand over hand direction, peer to peer passage of rites, rhymes and riddles.
We went into the studio during covid after not seeing one another for 10 months and just “pressed record”. All the strangeness of the year, all the high tides and low tides, came out through the music. We did not have a plan or a knowing of what we wanted to achieve. We simply wanted to get outside our own box and see what would happen if, during one of the most unpredictable years of our lives, we came together and let the music speak for itself and carve its own path into the rock.
Our first “concept” album. Experimental folk. Improvisational. Full 6 piece. The most dynamic fun we have ever had in the studio. Limitless songs. An unknowing of where we were going. Removing oneself from the outcome… we present to you our newest FULL LENGTH ALBUM. The Lost Mystique of Being In the Know.
Lord Huron – Long Lost
The Scoop: The Scoop: Lord Huron’s highly anticipated new album, Long Lost, arrives today via Whispering Pines Studios Inc./Republic Records. Lord Huron began lifting the veil on their intriguing new album during their Alive From Whispering Pines livestream series, which was presided over by the mysterious Mr. Tubbs Tarbell, who penned an open letter that answered many questions but still kept fans enraptured by the mystique of it all. Lord Huron began teasing the follow up to 2018’s Vide Noir earlier this year with a number of cryptic clues as well as the single, “Not Dead Yet,” which premiered on Alive From Whispering Pines ahead of the album announcement. The rockers continued to unfurl the LP, which carries an atmospheric cosmic cowboy sound that is both retro and forward-thinking, with “Mine Forever” and the title track. “I Lied” was the final single to arrive before the album’s release and features singer-songwriter Allison Ponthier.
John Hiatt & Jerry Douglas Band – Leftover Feelings
The Scoop: Renowned singer-songwriter John Hiatt teamed up with the Jerry Douglas Band on Leftover Feelings, an 11-track album out today on New West Records. Douglas produced the follow-up to Hiatt’s 2018 LP, The Eclipse Sessions, which was recorded at Nashville’s famed RCA Studio B. “I was immediately taken back to 1970, when I got to Nashville,” noted Hiatt regarding how he felt when he entered the legendary facility. “You can’t not be aware of the records that were made there … Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings doing ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.’ But that history wasn’t intimidating, because it’s such a comfortable place to make music.”
Hiatt and the Jerry Douglas Band tracked the album “live on the floor” in order to best react to what each musician brought to the sessions. Leftover Feelings marks the first collaboration between the acts and John’s 25th studio album. The singer-songwriter referenced his past in reworking a pair of songs he recorded previously: “All The Lilacs In Ohio” and “Little Goodnight.” Hiatt also tipped his hat to RCA Studio B’s history by fitting mention of “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” within “The Music Is Hot.” The ensemble hits the road this summer in support of Leftover Feelings.
Tragically Hip – Saskadelphia
The Scoop: Saskadelphia is the first release by renowned Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip since the death of frontman Gord Downie in 2017. The six-song EP features outtakes from sessions for the band’s 1991 sophomore album, Road Apples, for which Saskadelphia was a working title. Misreports that The Hip’s master recordings were lost in the 2008 Universal Studios fire helped spur the project. “I was hesitant to push ‘play’ on these tapes because I just thought, ‘Well, these songs didn’t make the record,’ so I really wasn’t expecting much,” guitarist Paul Langlois told Apple Music. “But the songs literally just jumped out at me — so much so that I was like, ‘Why didn’t these make the record?’” While some tapes were unearthed, the master for “Montreal” was unable to be located and instead included is a live version of the song, written in response to the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, and recorded in Montreal in 2000, on the 11th anniversary of the horrible event.
Allison Russell – Outside Child
The Scoop: Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Allison Russell makes her solo debut with Outside Child, available today on Fantasy Records. Russell, who is a co-founding member of Our Native Daughters and Birds Of Chicago, was raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and can be heard singing on the album in French, which was spoken by Russell’s foster family. Currently a resident of Nashville, Russell recruited several guest musicians to contribute to the album including Yola, Erin Rae, The McCrary Sisters, Ruth Moody, Jamie Dick, Dan Knobler as well as Russell’s partner JT Nero. Knobler produced the album that was recorded at Knobler Sound Emporium, Studio A in Nashville in September 2019. Russell detailed the inspiration behind the album, writing in part:
“This is my first solo album. It is acutely personal. It was hard for me to write, harder still to sing, play, and share. Also, a relief. Like sucking the poison from a snake bite. Thanks to the supreme empathy, musicality, kindness, sensitivity, and humor of each artist who brought these songs to life with me, the recording process became — by some mystical alchemy – joyous and empowering … Eased by loving communal laughter as much as shared tears.
“My hope is that in spite of the autobiographical nature of this work – or perhaps because of it – these songs may resonate for some of the many, many others (1 in 3 girls, 1 in 4 boys, 1 in 2 trans/intersex youth) who have endured similar trespasses. My hope is that these songs may reach some of the families ravaged by such circumstances and secrets. My hope is also to honor those who could no longer live with such trespasses and to honor those who were murdered – a staggering majority of whom were and are indigenous women/trans/intersex people and other women/trans/intersex people of color. Silence is killing us. Silence is always, eventually, complicit, and I can no longer be.”
Robert Finley – Sharecropper’s Son
The Scoop: Robert Finley’s third studio album, Sharecropper’s Son, once again finds the 67-year-old working with producer Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) whose label Easy Eye Sound released the bluesman’s record today. The follow-up to 2017’s Auerbach-produced Goin’ Platinum! was recorded in Nashville at Easy Eye Sound studio and features nine new originals plus a cover of the spiritual “All My Hope.” Auerbach contributed to the sessions, along with guitarist Kenny Brown and bassist Eric Deaton — both onetime members of Junior Kimbrough’s and R.L. Burnside’s bands — as well as keyboardist/songwriter Bobby Wood, drummer Gene Chrisman, bassist Dave Roe, drummer Sam Bacco and a full horn section. Finley’s lyrics were informed by his childhood growing up in Louisiana during the Jim Crow Era. Regarding the album, Finley stated:
“We made this album after we all went on tour together, and we were ready. I was ready to tell my story. What I want everybody to know from my own experience is that you’re never too young to dream, and that you’re never too old for your dream to come true … When we play live, I always leave room in the show for lyrics I make up on the spot while the band hits a groove. I guess the younger generation calls it ‘free-styling,’ but for me, it’s just speaking from my mind straight from my soul. It needs to be something I lived, and then I can just tell people about it. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened … I want people to understand that I can’t be kept in a box. I like to do all kinds of music — everything that means anything to me, from gospel to blues to soul to country to rock ‘n’ roll. And I like to stand out and be different, and do things that reach young and older people. What I want everybody to know from my own experience is that you’re never too young to dream, and that you’re never too old for your dream to come true.”
Quantic & Eddie Roberts – Sheepskin Sessions
The Scoop: Quantic (producer Will Holland) and The New Mastersounds guitarist Eddie Roberts dropped their debut collaborative EP, Sheepskin Sessions, today via Roberts’ Color Red record label. The four-song collection’s genesis dates back to sessions held in Denver at Macy Sound Studios back in 2016. The project further came together at Quantic’s Selva Studios in Brooklyn and through remote recording done via Robets’ Denver-based Color Red Studios that opened in 2018. Roberts and Quantic’s relationship dates back to the early-2000s when The Quantic Soul Orchestra would open for The New Mastersounds in the pair’s native United Kingdom. Both played guitar during the initial recording of what became Sheepskin Sessions, backed by bassist Josh Fairman (SunSquabi, Analog Son) and drummer Jeff Franca (Thievery Corporation, ETHNO). The New Mastersounds’ horn section of trumpeter Mike Olmos on and saxophonist Jason Mingledorff added additional parts at Color Red. Keyboardist Chris Spies also overdubbed additional parts as well.
Henhouse Prowlers – The Departure
The Scoop: The Departure is Chicago-based bluegrass quartet Henhouse Prowlers’ new album and first since guitarist Chris Dollar joined the band. The follow-up to 2017’s Separation Man was recorded in Bloomington, Indiana by Jacob Belser at Primary Sound Studios — a converted church with an adjacent cemetary. The band, which also includes bassist Jon Goldfine, mandolinist Jake Howard and banjo player Ben Wright, produced the record featuring 13 new original songs. In a press release, the band detailed how they arrived on the album’s title, stating:
The way that this record was created was a departure from the “normal” way we have made records in the past. It is being released into a world that continues to experience a departure from its familiar ways.
For everyone, there has been a departure from the accustomed habits of daily life, as well as the ways we enjoy and experience music. The quiet cemetery beside the recording studio humbly reminds us of our mortality – for too many people this past year, there has been a departure from this earth.
Every beginning has an end. Every end, a new beginning. Every departure, has an arrival.
Henhouse Prowlers will celebrate the release of The Departure with shows at City Winery Chicago on May 29 and 30 before making their debut at the historic Station Inn in Nashville on June 4 and headlining the John Hartford Memorial Festival on June 5.
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.