Five videos for the KITHFOLK Video Roundup this week, from lovely forested folk songs in Colorado, to burning electric blues lines on a mini golf course and breakdancing limberjacks in Québec. Plus a meat skull that's kind of disturbing. Enjoy!
Aoife O'Donovan & Sarah Jarosz - Some Tyrant
(The Sitch Sessions)
Of course a video starring two of the best young roots vocalists will provide lovely lovely music, but what's surprising with this new video from Aoife O'Donovan and Sarah Jarosz is just how beautiful their duet turned out. Working off of an old British ballad, "Some Tyrant," their near-whispered voices seem to lightly float on the breeze. Produced by The Bluegrass Situation, filmed by Mason Jar Music, and set in a verdant meadow in Colorado, there's nothing not awesome about this video. Sometimes the best musicians need to just sit back and revel in the music. Radical reworkings of old songs have their place, but sometimes it's important to just let the song speak. Only the very best singers can pull off something this subtle. Only the best artists know to give the song space to speak.
Cate Le Bon - Shoeing the Bone
A friend recently suggested I listen to more from Welsh songwriter, Cate Le Bon. After seeing this video from her 2009 hit Shoeing The Bones, I began to realize that I was half expecting this little song to actually mend my recently broken heart. I shamefully pressed repeat until the song's hook, "these are hard times to fall in love" became my personal break-up declaration of independence. I can't get enough of this song's vulnerability, even though Cate has put out two other records [Cyrk, 2012 & Mug Muesum 2013] since her 2009 debut Me oh My, which this sad little gem is from.The video itself is stunning and if you find yourself "upon a hard mile" just remember that friendships forged with horses over a sunrise can be as confusing as finding a prosciutto covered skeleton-head of your passed lover buried in the ground. These are hard, hard times.
Mélisande [électrotrad] - Le Vin Est Bon
The last issue of KITHFOLK featured a nice interview with and article on French-Canadian singer Mélisande. Her new album with her group Mélisande [electrotrad] was an interesting blend of Québécois tradition and electronic and rock influences, but it also had a lot to say about the role of women in traditional music. This is a conflicted part of the tradition, as the ratio of men to women in Québécois traditional music is pretty bad, and there are certainly historical reasons that men and women had different roles in the music. Mélisande takes aim at these old mentalities on her song, "Le Vin Est Bon," talking about the stereotypes of what women should be doing (mainly sweeping up, waiting for the men to come back, and being demure). In Mélisande's version, the women kick back with a couple bottles of wine, some old songs, and make the boys sweep up the mess. The video is great too, featuring some powerful dance performances all in honor of the humble limberjack, a little dancing toy common in Québécois traditional circles.
Lonesome Shack - More Primitive
This video is an instant classic, and for whatever my vote is worth, Video of the Year! Sneaking into a mini golf course after hours and freak dancing like an actual freak with tricked-out skater moves [sans an actual skateboard], Ben Todd and the rest of Lonesome Shack know exactly what music genres they are referencing with their video for their 2014 album's title track, More Primitive. With a solid grip on old grunge, twisted blues and a kind of realism that can only be described as cool, the band's raw, fuzzy style is classic No-Fi. The video feels like an artifact, a distorted affirmation that the Golden Age of High-Fi is indeed over and good riddance. With videos like these, I think we could all be a little More Primitive, after all.
BTW Video of the Year Honorable Mention goes to Seattle pop-punk garage rockers The Jesus Rehab for this sad little ode to the death of the flip phone.
The Louvin Brothers - Cash on the Barrelhead
I've been obsessed with The Louvin Brothers recently. Completely obsessed. I can't put down Charlie Louvin's biography, and it's really changing how I see early bluegrass and country music. I've always felt early bluegrass had this punk vibe to it, but never got why. Reading these stories about coal miners working in mines three feet high, or good men reduced to scrabbling to survive, it's clear that a lot of these early artists were living on the edge every second of the day. That's what you hear in the music and it's the same thing we hear in early hip-hop or old country blues. This kind of desperate edge from a person realizing this is their one change to get the hell out. Their only chance to do something beyond what they know they can't do. I've been listening to "Cash on the Barrelhead" over and over, and I'm a big fan of these YouTube videos where record collectors just put the needle down on an actual 78 and tape it. Being audiophiles themselves, the sound is pretty great and there's something visceral about it, even though we're far removed via the internet. So here's The Louvin Brothers with "Cash on the Barrelhead" in all their dusty glory!