why you runnin?

Well, if I didn’t enjoy Lissie half as much as I do, it would have been more difficult to pull myself away from Rock Band tonight to write this post.  However, despite my incredible growing drummer genius, I will take some time to write (and to listen).  Before I begin, though, just because we’ve got some little seedling ideas, Eric and I would like to know how many musicians reading would be interested in getting involved with an American version of the In A Cabin With project.  We’ve talked about it before, and we aren’t making any guarantees that we can make it happen, but we’d really like to at least see how much interest is out there.  And who knows?  If there’s enough, maybe we can make it happen, or at least help it along.  So let us know, via Facebook or Twitter or email.

Back to the star of tonight’s post: Lissie, and her recent E.P. (11/10/09), Why You Runnin’, 5 songs well worth your $3.99.  Here’s the deal.  I live in Virginia, and there were people in my high school who rode camo-painted trucks to school with the confederate flag hanging from the truck bed.  People are, you know, SOUTHERN.  Not my favorite thing in the world.  You know what else isn’t my favorite thing in the world?  Country music.  Get that freaking Kenny Chesney crap away from me.  But the thing is, there are some singer/songwriters that I feel belong in the country category and are not the stereotypical crap they play on the country music station where Carrie Underwood claims to like shots of whiskey (oh well in that case you must be country, Carrie)…rather, they’re the salt-of-the-earth, agricultural, honest musicians whose chords and twang come straight from the heart.  Joe Purdy, Great Lake Swimmers, Samantha Crain…and Lissie.  I would just call them folk, but I don’t know.  Sometimes country seems to fit, in a good way.

Why You Runnin’ has a country/folk feel that doesn’t piss me off, somewhere between Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (even the cover sort of looks like his), Janis Joplin, EmmyLou Harris, and Iron & Wine.  The maturity of Lissie’s voice really blows me away–it sets itself apart rather than falling into line with the various “types” of female voices (the Paramore “alternative” voice, the Ingrid Michaelson “folk” voice, or just tweeeeeeeeeeeeee!!).  She is, to reference God Help the Girl (what is life without good Belle & Sebastian/Stuart Murdoch references?), a bonafide “down and dusky blonde,” who makes beautiful soulful music that she means.  While “Little Lovin” is catchy and quick, the other 4 songs on this EP are quite slow, and absolutely convincing.  “Oh Mississippi” is hands down my favorite song, and I love Lissie’s voice backed by that hymn-like piano.  Her arrangements use captivating, mournful echoes…it sounds almost like she recorded in a cathedral, and the lyrics speak of life experiences in a way the listener can feel is sincere.  You feel like, she has roots and people to look up to and she has experienced things that have made her more whole, more alive.  She comes from someplace where people love her and where she loves, where she’s been given room to grow as a person and into a person.  Her sincerity is clear and inviting.

So, I invite YOU to listen to her myspace and then cough up a few bucks to buy the EP.  Also, feel free to share any thoughts about country and folk and what they even are.

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I suppose “Blithe Spirit” is a literary allusion

I was going to post about Dear Reader tonight. I told Kristin I would. But I have changed my mind. (Besides, I plugged them on Facebook a fortnight ago.) There is something I’ve been wanting to tell you about since we started this blog, but I decided to hold off until we had a larger audience. This is one of those artists I always tell people to check out even though I know they won’t. (These are the same people who interrupt a trip-hop DJ in a posh martini bar to request Sum 41 or Lady Gaga or whatever the kids are listening to these days. Yes, it happens. Yes, they are my friends. Yes, it is embarrassing. No, don’t remind me.) So, anyway, I can’t hold it in any longer. I hope Kristin doesn’t beat me up at the company picnic.

Piney Gir is from Kansas. Let me rephrase that. Piney Gir is from Kansas in much the same way that T.S. Eliot was from St. Louis. Granted, she doesn’t insert Ovid, Dante, and Shakespeare into her work with quite the frequency or fluency of Eliot, but she does play the accordion, which is at least as hot as historico-poetic allusion, perhaps more so. (For those who lost me after Kansas, she lives in London now.)

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you why I love her music so much. Chalk it up to the accordion, if you like. Or maybe it’s the fact that “Jezabel” from Peakahokahoo still ranks in the top two on my list of the sexiest songs I’ve ever heard, in a disconcerting Joan Jett kind of way. Or it could be because we both love 50s frocks. (Though I tend not to wear them. Kristin and I did, however, visit the Golden Age of Couture exhibition at the V&A two years ago whilst I was on a layover, bound for Scotland). Perhaps it is the very indefinability of her music that makes it so alluring. The first album, Peakahokahoo was highly influenced by electronica and those Casio keyboards she loves so much, and included a(n absolutely) fabulous take on “Que Sera, Sera”. The next album, Hold Yer Horses, by The Piney Gir Country Roadshow, I take to have had a distinctly more countrified flavor. I haven’t heard it, unfortunately, because every time I try to track down a copy, everyone tells me it doesn’t exist. Then again, maybe that’s it. Every dead end makes me want it more. And exclusivity is the sexiest thing of all.

And there is a new album coming. The Yearling, this time by Piney Gir & the Age of Reason, will be out sometime soon, I guess, I am having trouble finding a date (don’t worry, I’m used to it by now). If you can help, let me know (that goes for the other thing, too). The limited edition lead single “Of All the Wonderful Things” featuring Eamon Hamilton and beautifully twisted lyrical moments like “as much as I would like to see you die, I never find the strength to strike you down”, is out now in the UK (buy it via the link here) and will be released in the States on 30 June (with a different B-side, so buy them both).

Speaking of 30 June, Piney Gir & The Age of Reason will be playing the Lexington (in London, not Kentucky). Check the Facebook event page for more details. Sadly, once again, I will not be there. Piney, I promise I will hear you play someday, you just never have gigs when I’m in your country. (I am getting the distinct impression that an Indie Handbook field trip is in order.)

Oh, and one last thing. Her MySpace postings are precious. If we ever decided to expand The Indie Handbook, I would want her to write for us, though I’m sure she has better things to do.