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Tag: americana

Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones Bring Their Irreverent Retro Rock to the East Village

Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones are connoisseurs of retro Americana sounds, from rockabilly to 60s soul music. They’re playing Otto’s on Sept 24 at 10 PM; for those who might say, “Eww, the East Village on a Saturday night,” keep in mind that so many of the touristy types who made the neighborhood a place to avoid on the weekend have left town.

Out of all the albums Hope and the band have put out over the years, the very best of them all might be their snarky, irreverent Songs in the Key of Quarantine, streaming at Bandcamp. The core of the band, singer/guitarist Hope and her bassist husband Matthew Goldpaugh put this spot-on, satirical ep out during the darkest months of 2020 with a little help from their bandmates.

The first track is Social Distancing Blues:

Can’t give no one a hug
Can’t hold my baby tight
You got to wear a hazmat suit to get into a fight

And it gets better from there.

Bad Time to Quit Drinking is a grimly funny tune: the gist of it is that there are other things you can do to get high. No Time to Get Bored is a shuffle where Lara chronicles all the goofy things you can do when you’re been put under house arrest by a totalitarian regime.

She shows off some snarling gutter blues guitar chops on You Are Essential, a duet with her husband where they send a grateful shout out to the retail and healthcare workers who kept the economy going when many of the rest of us were depersoned during the endless, bleak days of 2020.

She drops her guard for the sad, spare, plainspoken acoustic soul ballad When Will I See My Grandma Again? Then she picks up the pace with Go Big & Stay Home, a scruffy number which seems a lot more cynical than optimistic. The last song on the album is a cover and it’s not very good – and it’s by a corporate rock guy with blood on his hands. He made his drummer take the lethal Covid injection early during the band’s 2021 tour, and the drummer died after one of the first shows.

The band’s latest album is Here to Tell The Tale, a full-band record also up at Bandcamp, which came out last year. Lead guitarist Eddie Rion and drummer Jeremy Boniello scramble through a catchy, diverse mix that starts with a simmering ghoulabilly tune, then dips into smoky go-go sounds, vintage Loretta Lynn style C&W and jump blues.

The last time this blog was in the house at one of the band’s shows, it was in 2018 at an Amsterdam Avenue bar which had neither stage nor PA system. Running everything through their amps, the band managed to keep a noisy neighborhood crowd at this onetime dive under control, no small achievement.

Northern Noir Band the Sadies Leave Us With What Could Be The Best Album of 2022

Guitarist Dallas Good said that his band the Sadies‘ new album Colder Streams was the best record they’d ever made. They began recording it in 2019. Good and his bandmates had to sneak across provincial borders during the tyrannical Canadian lockdown to finally finish it in the summer of 2021. Too bad he didn’t live to see it. The lethal Covid injection killed him at 49 this past February.

The Sadies put out a ton of good albums, both under their own name as well as backing Neko Case. They started out in Americana, somewhere between Nashville gothic and punkgrass and by the time they wrapped up this one – streaming at Bandcamp – they’d gone in a more electric, psychedelic direction. Dallas Good was right: this is the Sadies best record. More than that, it’s a potent, metaphorically chilling historical document and arguably the best rock album of 2022.

The opening track, Stop and Start perfectly capsulizes the band’s sound in their final days: dense, reverb-drenched layers of jangle, clang, swirl and occasional scream from the Good brothers’ guitars over the precise, swinging groove of bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. It may or may not be a lockdown parable – either way, it offers guarded hope for a new future:

The sickness comes like a rising sun
Now your war is done, what have you become?
Are you too far down to stop right now?
You can start right now
Stop and start right now

Is it a surprise that the next track – released as a single this past winter – would be titled Message to Belial? “The dark of all ages has come,” the band harmonize somberly over a spiky thicket of reverb guitar.in this parable of a less than sympathetic devil.

Dallas Good’s lingering, twangy lines resonate over his brother Travis’ layers of distantly Beatlesque acoustic rhythm in More Alone, an increasingly angst-fueled elegy for both people and places gone forever:

In this day and age
Rage has become all the rage
We choose to behave
Like wolves left to starve in a cage
We keep going in circles around around
Spinning faster and faster and faster
Go round in the end and then start back down again
Looking forward to another disaster

So Far For So Few is a bouncy mashup of bluegrass and Flamin’ Groovies janglerock, growing more psychedelic and enveloping on the wings of Dallas’ soaring lead lines.

Fueled by stark banjo and some intricate guitar flatpicking, All the Good – with the brothers’ mom and dad Margaret and Bruce Good on harmony vocals and autoharp, respectively – is a throwback to the band’s more acoustic late 90s sound.

Jon Spencer guests on fuzz guitar on No One’s Listening, a scorching update on ominous 60s Laurel Canyon psych-folk: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you anymore,” is the crushingly ironic key to the song. You Should Be Worried, a gorgeously resonant open-tuned front-porch folk tune, has even darker foreshadowing: “I’m not worried about you, you should be worried about me,” the band harmonize.

They go back to scampering reverb-plated garage-psych rock in Better Yet, with a tantalizingly blistering acoustic/electric guitar duel. Then they turbocharge the Nashville gothic with silvery sheets of reverb guitar in Cut Up High and Dry before taking a brief, surreal detour into dub.

They keep the scampering drive going through Ginger Moon, with what’s arguably Dallas’ most savage solo here. In an eerie stroke of fate, the final cut is titled End Credits, an intricately layered, Morricone-esque southwestern gothic instrumental. How tragic to see such a great band go out at the top of their game.

A Harrowing Solo Comeback Album and a Rare New York Show by Cult Icon Nina Nastasia

For about a decade beginning in the late 90s, songwriter Nina Nastasia earned a devoted following for her frequently haunting, painterly work. It’s hard to think of another artist who so perceptively captured the details in the darkness beneath the bustle in gritty New York neighborhoods which became artistic meccas before they were crushed in a blitzkrieg of gentrification.

The city’s decline mirrored Nastasia’s own. By 2010, her performing career had pretty much stalled. As Nastasia tells it, she and her longtime partner Kennan Gudjonsson sequestered themselves a tiny Chelsea apartment, caught up in a cycle of abuse and codependence. The day after Nastasia finally moved out, in January 2020, Gudjonsson killed himself.

In the first few months of the lockdown, Nastasia was able to process what by all accounts must have been inconceivable pain, and the result is a harrowing solo vinyl record, Riderless Horse, streaming at Bandcamp. She’s playing what could be her first Williamsburg show in at least fifteen years at Union Pool on August 20 at 7 PM for $20

It’s been a dozen years since Nastasia released an album, but she’s emerged a stronger singer than ever. Meanwhile, her songwriting has taken a detour into Americana. With her usual black humor, she opens with the sound of a cork popping: this will not exactly be a party, but it’s impossible to turn away from.

The album’s first song is Just Stay in Bed, a spare Tex-Mex flavored tune in 6/8. Just when it sounds like it’s going to turn into a fond love song, Nastasia’s voice grows menacing. Clearly this was a dysfunctional relationship on both sides.

Her vocals rise to fiery accusatory levels over steady strumming in the second track, You Were So Mad, a stoic breakup ballad: “You set a blaze inside our house, you set a blaze and smoked us out.” This Is Love is a subdued heartland rock anthem, a chronicle of “taking turns to follow and lead into the dissonance.”

The narrative grows uglier over Nastasia’s enigmatic fingerpicking in Nature, a plainspoken portrait of violence, and how easy it is to become habituated to it. This dynamic will resonate intensely through the rest of the record.

Nastasia switches to waltz time for Lazy Road, although even in this bucolic calm, death is lurking nearby. She revisits that atmosphere a little later with the bluegrass-tinged Blind As Batsies.

“I keep you alive as best as I can do,” Nastasia sings imploringly, but ultimately “to choose life over illness and leave,” in another waltz, Ask Me. She switches back to a muted Americana sway in the ironically titled The Two of Us, which wouldn’t be out of place on an Amy Rigby record from the 90s:

The simmering rage returns in Go Away: “There’s only one way to for me to give you peace, for me to leave: bury me,” Nastasia taunts. She follows with The Roundabout, an anguished request to bury the conflict under a blanket of denial.

The next track, Trust is the closest thing here to the stark sparkle that permeates Nastasia’s iconic early work. She sings to a ghost, in waltz time again, in Afterwards: “Love is tiresome when you’re older…it makes me wonder about the years that came before, and all the things I must ignore.” As a portrait of a relationship unraveling with catastrophic consequences, this ranks with Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights. Time may judge this a classic – just like Nastasia’s earlier albums, particularly The Blackened Air, her most bleakly orchestral release, from 2001.

Hilary Hawke Brings Her Fresh, Original Oldtime-Flavored Banjo Tunes to the Lower East Side

Banjo player Hilary Hawke has been on the front lines of the New York Americana and oldtimey scenes since the early teens. But unlike a lot of hotshot pickers, she’s more about tunes and tunesmithing than blistering banjo breakdowns. She’s opening an excellent triplebill tomorrow night, July 26 at 7 PM at the downstairs room at the Rockwood. Acoustic songwriter Mali Obomsawin, frontwoman of politically-inspired Boston Americana group Lula Wiles and fearless gospel/blues/oldtimey songwriter Queen Esther follow on the bill. It’s not clear who’s playing when, but everybody on the bill is worth hearing. Cover is $15.

Hawke’s new album LilyGild is streaming at Bandcamp. True to the theme of the album, which is “why overdo it,” more or less, Hawke chooses her spots throughout a mix of seven instrumental and a classic folk song,  joined by Reed Stutz on guitar. Her songs are fresh and translucent, but she loves unexpected tempo shifts and syncopation. She also gets a pretty amazing amount of resonance out of her axe, squeezing every millisecond of sustain out of the strings.

The first track is Three Snakes, a catchy but rhythmically labyrinthine dance tune with a goofy little interlude that’s too good to spoil. Once in awhile, Stutz will pick his way up with a little bassline to follow Hawke’s incisively syncopated picking.

Granddad’s Favorite//Fort Smith Breakdown, a diptych, has a couple of layers of guitar mingling with Hawke’s spacious picking, then the two go doublespeed on the way out. Crossing the River has a moody, unsettled undercurrent in contrast with Stutz’s steady forward drive. Then Hawke and Stutz move to the mic for a rustically waltzing version of Jack of Diamonds.

Her spiky phrases contrast with sleek, slithery turnaruonds in the aptly titled Happy Hollow. Beehive’s Chorus is the most modern-sounding number here: it could be a brief, early Jayme Stone tune. Hawke and Stutz wind up the album with the title track, packed with deft, wide-angle soul chords, slides and hammer-ons. Who needs to gild the lily when you have music like this.

What’s more, Hawke mentions on the Bandcamp page that these instrumentals are part of a collection that also includes a series of darker, cinematic pieces for electronic keys and banjo. Hopefully someday we’ll get to hear those too.

Faithless Town Play One of the Year’s Best Pro-Freedom Events in Nashville on the 16th

Atlanta band Faithless Town went viral with the scorching freedom rally footage in the video for their latest protest song, Live Free, a catchy, swaying mashup of Americana and Oasis. But they’ve been making good albums for a decade. Frontman Gene Owens got his start in the early teens playing Americana rock with a strong populist streak and honed his sharpshooter lyrical focus in the years that followed. They’re playing in the middle of an inspiring multi-band bill on July 16 at the Cobra, 2511 Gallatin Ave. in Nashville with the best of this era’s protest songwriters, Five Times August and folkgrass/redneck rock guitarslinger Campbell Harrison. Freedom fighter and journalist Ryan Cristian from the Last American Vagabond is also on the bill; cover is $15.

Faithless Town’s latest album Into the Light is a work in two parts: the first volume, streaming at Bandcamp, is a mix of four-on-the-floor anthems, folk noir and defiant singalongs for the noncompliant. But their previous album, Empires – streaming at Spotify – is just as good, and prophetic in places, especially considering that the band released it just weeks before the global totalitarian takeover in 2020. It’s as persistently uneasy, and immersed in regret and angst, as it is catchy. In Owens’ world, empires are as elusive as they are oppressive.

They open with the title track, a blistering two-guitar anthem that speaks truth to oligarch power with echoes of dark 60s Laurel Canyon psychedelia. “I spent my whole life sitting at a crossroads,” Owens confides restlessly in the anomie anthem Shot in the Dark, a harder-rocking shot at what Tom Petty was doing in the late 80s.

California Come Home is a gorgeously chiming, bittersweet reminiscence that wouldn’t be out of place in the Matt Keating catalog. “You’re wasting your time,” Owens soberly warns his wage-slave friend in Waste Away, icy spacerock ambience rising and receding behind him..

The existential angst reaches fever pitch in God’s Love as the band shift from stadium stomp to lavish ELO sweep. Then they nick the verse of a famous grunge tune until straightening out in the next song, The Return.

They slow down for the swaying, enveloping 6/8 ballad Out West: “All the things you want are still out of reach,” Owens cautions a nameless fortune-seeker. Likewise, the layers of guitar echo and resonate through Four Walls, a chronicle of what could be a marriage disintegrated beyond repair.

O Brother, a slowly building chronicle of betrayal, is a blend of Americana and late Beatles. The band return to amped-up Petty territory to close the record with 30 Years.

Remnants of a Well-Loved Western Swing Group Onstage Outdoors This Month

From 2012 through March of 2020, the Brain Cloud played a rambunctious take on western swing that was just as outside-the-box as what Bob Wills did when he mashed up swing jazz with 1930s hillbilly music and blues. The group got their start as subway buskers and took the name the Cangelosi Cards when they launched their first residency at the old Banjo Jim’s in the East Village back in the late zeros. They rebranded themselves as the Brain Cloud – after a Wills lyric – when they took over another Monday night residency at a popular Park Slope venue which at the time was open to all New Yorkers. While their band members would disperse to other jazz and Americana-adjacent groups during the week, from Red Hook to Williamsburg, they built a devoted following at the 9th Street residency.

Like so many other New York bands, they didn’t survive the 2020 lockdown, although several of their members have emerged with their own projects in recent months. Co-founder Dennis Lichtman, who played clarinet, violin and mandolin, is leading his latest group tomorrow evening, July 7 at 6 PM under the Dumbo archway. Take the F to York Street, go downhill a couple of blocks, hang a left to the bridge underpass and follow the sound. And the group’s deviously charming, tapdancing frontwoman Tamar Korn is leading her band at a free outdoor lunchtime show at noon on July 27 at the pedestrian mall at Willoughby and Pearl in downtown Brooklyn.

The Brain Cloud put out three albums: the last one was a charming and often sizzling 2017 Park Slope live set, and it’s still up at Bandcamp. If you were there, it will bring back a lot of memories. They open with a frenetically fun western swing version of the Carter Family’s Jealous Hearted Me and wind up with a similarly rambunctious take of Patsy Cline’s Love, Love, Love Me Honey Do.

In between, Lichtman’s clarinet trades off with Korn’s playful and sometimes irresistibly droll vocalese. Guitarist Skip Krevens channels a cosmopolitan Nashville pre-rockabilly vibe, circa 1953, while lapsteel player Raphael McGregor sails and plays thorny jazz clusters, and impersonates a trombone when Korn isn’t doing that.

Andrew Hall’s punchy bass looms large in their hi-de-ho version of Comes Love, the klezmer-swing hit which Korn would always hit out of the park. The little shivery echo that she throws to Lichtman is priceless, as is Korn’s solo later on – is she a clarinet or a theremin, or both? McGregor’s theremin-like steel solo keeps the entertainment going all the way through to drummer Kevin Dorn’s final emphatic thud.

Lichtman also plays seamless fiddle and takes a rare turn on electric mandolin for uncharacteristically chilling, incisive ambience in a couple of tunes. There’s a couple of instrumentals, a subdued swing version of Jimmie Rodgers’ Any Old Time and a couple of moments where you might wish this was a video since it’s impossible to tell whether that’s the clarinet or the steel, or Korn making fun of them.. What a great time this band had, and they brought the audience along with them.

The last time anyone from this blog was in the house at a Brain Cloud gig, it was July of 2019 and they were jousting and messing with each other pretty much like they do on this record, with Korn deserting the stage for the outer bar while McGregor and Krevens took extended solos. If there’s a band you really like playing somewhere in this city this summer, you might want to catch them now because you may never get another chance.

A Brilliant, Starkly Smoldering Album From Guitarslinger Phil Gammage

Phil Gammage is one of the great polymath guitarists in New York. He got his start as a hotshot lead player with second-gen CBGB band Certain General while still in his teens,. But the native Texan always stayed in touch with his Americana roots. Over the years, he’s gone deep into Chicago blues, hard country and even spare dustbowl folk. On the mic, he’s a crooner with a noir streak. In the years before the lockdown, he could be found at small venues across Manhattan, and he’s back at a favorite haunt, 11th Street Bar in the East Village tonight, June 22 at 8:30 PM.

His latest album Nowhere to Somewhere – streaming at Bandcamp – is his strongest and most diverse release in a long and underrated career. The level of songcraft matches the vast stylistic range in Gammage’s bag of riffs. He opens with Walk in the Sun,-a dirty bumpa-bumpa blues, Hound Dog Taylor mixed with Sleepy LaBeef and a little peak-era mid-80s Gun Club.

Gammage switches to acoustic twelve-string for Between the Tracks, then adds simmering electric layers and spare piano for a distantly menacing Dream Syndicate ambience. Greg Holt’s violin swirls over Michael Fox’s lithe drums and Brian Karp’s low-key bass in Voice on the Phone, a tasty mashup of 70s Stylistics soul and early 50s pre-rockabilly.

Gammage reinvents the Appalachian gothic ballad Alone and Forsaken as spare Mark Sinnis-style cemetery and western with funeral-parlor organ lurking in the background. Then he picks up the pace with What Would I Do, blending slurry blues riffs, sophisticated countrypolitan phrasing and spare, incisive Chicago blues.

Gammage works a warmly familiar four-chord front-porch folk progression in Come on Lightning, Holt’s violin weaving and dancing overhead. He returns to Nashville gothic for the gloomy electric Hank Williams shuffle Just Another Traveling Man, the ghost choir of Michele Butler and Joe Nieves lingering in the background.

It’s impossible to think of a more creepy, lurid, Lynchian cover of Night Life than the spare, sepulchral one here. Next, Gammage mashes up classic Carl Perkins rockabilly and a little southern-fried mid-80s boogie in Never Ending Setting Sun.

He works terse contrasts between acoustic and electric, major and minor in the nocturnally swaying Shadow Road. So Long and Goodbye, the closing cut, is the closest thing to 21st century Americana here. Like so many albums that came out in the musical dead zone that was the fall and winter of 2021, this one pretty much sank without a trace, which is too bad because it’s a clinic in purist guitar. Fans of Eric Ambel, Steve Wynn and the edgy first wave of Americana bands from the 80s like the Long Ryders will love this.

Singles, Useful Information and Cynical Jokes For 6/16

So much good short stuff has come over the transom in the last few days that it would be a crime not to share it. Today’s list is about half an hour worth of good jokes, some dead-serious stuff, and some great tunes. If you know this blog, you know the drill: click on artist or author names for their webpages, click on titles for audio, video or a quick read. Make sure you use Brave or another browser with an ad blocker so you don’t have to mute the intro to the youtube clips!

By now you’ve probably heard the news about a certain faulty doctor and how everything he said would work, didn’t work – in a very personal sense. The irreplaceable Jordan Schachtel has a suggestion for the protocol that Dr. Faulty should follow, now that he has a cold and failed the PCR test. About sixty seconds of laughs.

Another insightful Substack writer, attorney Michael Senger – author of Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World – has an irresistible parody of a New York Times article about the Shanghai lockdown: another one-minute read.

Today’s first song goes back a few months, but it’s no less timely. Here’s the Stone Roses’ Ian Brown doing Little Seed Big Tree, a solo electric anti-lockdown spacerock classic. The ending after the Bill Gates sample – “People think they have a choice, you don’t have a choice” – is priceless.

Travel further back in time, to the heyday of bands like Genesis in the mid-70s, with the tricky time signatures and baroque whirl of Pennies by the Pound playing Burning Wish: “Fools that we were, we ate up all the soothing lies.”

The latest angst-fueled art-rock single from A.A. Williams is Evaporate: it’s Erika Simonian with crunchy guitars

Moving from gloomy Europe to slightly less gloomy Nashville, here’s Rachel Sumner & Traveling Light playing Strangers Again, with an intricate lattice of acoustic fingerpicking and high lonesome steel guitar. “People change and sometimes not for the better.”

With gospel piano and wide-angle tremolo guitar, Abby Hamilton‘s Trailer Park Queen is an evocatively funny story: she’s hitting on the box wine and he’s on his second round of you-know-what.

This last piece is a little longer than what you usually see on a page worth of singles here, but hang with it. While the narrative itself is very troubling – Dr. Pam Popper offering a very concise overview of how deeply the grooming-industrial complex has infiltrated the American public education system – a miracle happens at the 10:30 mark. You can start the video at about two minutes in, but stick around for some badly needed comic relief. You don’t actually have to be watching to get it.. 

Singles for Early June: The Theme Is Laughter, More Or Less

Been a long time since there’s been a collection of singles on this page. In celebration of how we managed to make it through May without losing our collective sovereignty to the WHO, and that all the concentration camp proposals died in session in the New York State legislature, here’s a bunch of songs, a couple of snarky videos and a meme to keep our spirits up. Click on artist names for their webpages (a couple of these are anonymous), click on titles for audio or visuals.

This one just came over the transom today thanks to the irreplaceable Mark Crispin Miller’s News From Underground. Bill Gates Sings! At :41 “I identify as a medical doctor!”

Muzzleboy reads a book on German history in the 1930s! Sometimes a meme is really worth a thousand words.  Screenshot this and make it your screensaver maybe?

El Gato Malo reminds us, in a minute 41 seconds, how in the fall of 2020 all the Democratic candidates were railing against the “Trumpvax.”

Sage Hana offers a creepy, dystopic mini-movie about what bioweapons may be waiting for us this fall courtesy of the sinister Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Genius animator Ken Avidor has launched his Unjabbed short video series about freedom fighters in a postapocalyptic future, which have been banned from Vimeo. Thanks to Steve Kirsch for grabbing these and saving them for all of us

Here’s a real subtle one. In the stately chamber pop cadences of Matter of Time, Lydia Luce wants to know, “Who’s gonna grow food for the masses?”

Here’s another subtle, drifting pastoral pop number: Meadow, by Emily Tahlin. “The meadow stretches out for miles, I have come to hide.”

Let’s wind up today’s playlist on an upbeat note with Rebecca Day & the Crazy Daysies doing their Americana tune Old Jeans Blue. “A shot of Jim and a sixpack in and I can’t pretend.” Scroll down to the middle of the page for the video. Thanks to Tom Woods of the absolutely essential Tom Woods Show (a guy with great taste in music too) for the heads-up on this one

A Lustrous Solo Album From Dobro Stylist Abbie Gardner

Abbie Gardner is one of the most distinctive dobro players in  Americana. She has a seemingly effortless grace and otherworldly precision on an instrument that often bedevils other acoustic guitarslingers. Despite her vaunted technique, she plays with a remarkable economy of notes. She may be best known as a member of well-loved harmony trio Red Molly. but she had fearsome chops before she joined that band. Her new solo album DobroSinger is streaming at Bandcamp

As with her other solo records, almost all the tunes are originals. The opening number, Down the Mountain is a steady coal-mining blues. Gardner’s liquid chords contrast with her stiletto-articulate fingerpicking and slithery slide lines. She sings in an expressive down-home delivery equally informed by oldschool gospel, blues and front-porch folk music.

The second track, Only All the Time is more enigmatic, a stripped-down throwback to the alt-country sounds of the 90s. Gardner slows down for See You Again, part sophisticated blues ballad, part country waltz, with a spare, suspenseful solo on the way out. Born in the City has more of Gardner’s signature, silken legato: the gist of the song is that urban people stick together just as tightly as country folks do.

Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if the next song, Three Quarter Time was in, say, 7/8? It actually isn’t: it’s in 6/8! The intimate arrangement is an artful approach to what’s essentially a vintage Memphis-style soul ballad. Gardner digs in hard for a wicked but nuanced vibrato for a starkly original, grim take of Cypress Tree Blues. Then she flips the script with the wryly aphoristic Too Many Kisses, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Amy Allison songbook.

The brisk, bouncily swinging Honky Tonk Song is the one number here where an overdubbed rhythm track would have come in handy: the absence of a band isn’t an issue anywhere else. Gardner interrupts the playful mood for the stark, understatedly harrowing memoir When We Were Kids: in a quiet way, it’s the most stunning song on the album.

Gardner closes the record with a couple of covers. The first one is a spacious, pouncing version of Those Memories of You, a minor hit for Pam Tillis in the mid-80s. And Gardner reinvents the proto-Lynchian Jo Stafford hit You Belong to Me with a distant, uneasily dreamy feel. If you play guitar, there’s plenty of inspiration here for you to take your chops to the next level. If you don’t, it’s a characteristically sharp, smart Americana record.