New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Tag: jeffrey foucault

Caitlin Canty Joins a Richly Tuneful, Edgy Americana Bill with Jeffrey Foucault at Subculture

Running a music blog is fun. That’s why we do it. But once the whole world starts watching, there are hiccups. The first thing that hits you is that everybody wants attention, but a whole lot of people aren’t willing to reciprocate. For example, there was this amazing Indian singer doing Pakistani ghazals, backed by this awesome Malian rock band, whose previous album got a rave review here. She’s got an album release show coming up very soon. But she she hides her music behind a paywall.

Then there’s this haphazardly fun Israeli guitarist who has a money gig in a lame indie rock band, but whose original material is completely different, and totally kicks ass. Unfortunately, his show on the south side of Williamsburg got cancelled…or the tourist trap he was scheduled to play at cancelled on him. Probably the latter: “Dude, you didn’t sell enough online tickets to yuppie Jersey parents, or parents of the Minnesota transplants who play here, so we’re cancelling your gig in favor of a Justin Bieber cover band.” This is Notbrooklyn, 2015.

So what do the other eight million of us have to look forward to this weekend? How about a killer doublebill on Feb 22 at Subculture at 8 PM with powerfully lyrical Americana songwriters Caitlin Canty and Jeffrey Foucault, and $18 advance tix, which you should scramble to get if you don’t already have them?

Foucault is a standard bearer of the Faulknerian southern folk rock of John Prine and Steve Earle, both of whom are obvious influences. Canty has a relatively new album, Reckless Skyline, streaming at Bandcamp, epically and puristically produced live in the studio by Foucault, which gives you a good indication of what kind of level she’s elevated her game to lately. The apocalyptic shuffle that opens the album, anchored by Eric Heywood’s eerily keening pedal steel, encourages an unnamed freedom fighter to burn his or her photographs: “No rest or time to run to cover,” Canty insists.

She looks back to a pre-spycam era with the warm, gorgeously layered True, a classic 60s soul ballad: “How can I belong to you, and belong to me, once I saw the fear?” she entreats, even as the guitar multitracks rise to a lush, enveloping sonic quilt.

One Man is a hypnotically enticing, entrancing electric blues number, Matt Lorenz’s snarling lead guitar over Jeremy Moses’ resonant bass and Billy Conway’s hard-hitting drums. My Love For You Will Not Fade evokes Tift Merritt at her most summery and sultry: “The pen is only at the paper, the ink aches for the page,” Canty insists, cool and strong.

The Brightest Day hits an explosive, gorgeously burning peak fueled equally by blue-flame guitars and vocals, Canty cutting off the end of her vocal lines to underscore the doom in the lyrics. Then she hits a simmering minor-key intensity with the bitter kiss-off shuffle Enough About Hard Times and keeps it going with the otherworldly, spacious, bluesy menace of Wore Your Ring: “I wore your ring til the stone fell out,” Canty intones, nonchalant but savage.

The hard-swinging My Baby Don’t Care hits a bitter, growling gutter blues groove, followed by the more optimistic, expansive blue-collar anthem Southern Man (an original, not the Neil Young classic). “Never hit dry land or the sky,” Canty intones cynically on the gorgeously low-key Nashville gothic anthem I Never. “Can you keep the pain out, only let in the breeze? Gonna leave the door open, only lets in all the leaves,” she laments.

The album ends up with an otherworldly, ethereal cover of the Neil Young cult classic Unknown Legend and then the roughhewn Cold Habit, a showcase for Canty’s flinty, restless, unselfconsciously wounded vocals. This is a deep album that offers deeper insights with repeated listening, and knowing how intense Canty is onstage, should translate even better up there. Stephen King, if you ever need someone to sing a soundtrack, here she is.

Hauntingly Intense Americana Tunesmithing from Ernest Troost

Ernest Troost is a brilliant Americana songwriter. Doesn’t he have the perfect name for one? Consider: Ernest Troost in skintight leather and spike bracelets, raising his Flying V guitar to the sky with a foot up on the monitor in the haze of the smoke machine? Nope. Ernest Troost remixed by celebrity DJ eUnUcH? Uh uh. But Ernest Troost making pensive, sometimes snarling, Steve Earle-ish, lyrically-driven Americana rock with inspired playing and smartly judicious arrangements? That’s the ticket. Troost’s latest album, prosaically titled O Love, is streaming at his Soundcloud page. He doesn’t have any New York shows coming up, but folks outside the area can catch him in Ridgefield, Connecticut on April 27 at Temple Shearith Israel, 46 Peaceable St.

Troost sets his aphoristic wordsmithing to a tightly orchestrated interweave of acoustic and electric guitars over a purist, understated rhythm section. The opening track, Pray Real Hard evokes Dylan’s Buckets of Rain, but with better guitar, a hard-times anthem where “you got to sleep on the floor ’cause that’s the only bed you made.” The ballad All I Ever Wanted adds psychedelic imagery over its country sway. Close, with its nimble acoustic fingerpicking and Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era sonics, has as much truth about why some relationships actually manage to work as it does an element of caution for clingy people. “All this room you give me makes us close,” Troost drawls: he could be talking to a woman, or to the Texas sky, but either way it makes an awful lot of sense.

The album’s shuffling, delta blues-tinged title track has a visceral ache: “Oh love left me a broken hollow frame, I do not feel a thing but I cannot bear the pain,” Troost intones. With its circling mandolin and intricate acoustic guitar interplay, Harlan County Boys builds a gloomy noir mining country folk tableau. Bitter Wind broodingly weighs the possibility of being able to escape the past, and also the danger of getting what you wished for. The Last Lullaby is a gently nocturnal elegy, while Storm Coming has a bluesy intensity and paranoid wrath to match anything Pink Floyd ever recorded, even if it doesn’t sound the slightest thing like that band.

Troost’s snaky, ever-present acoustic lead guitar line on the stark, oldschool folk-flavored When It’s Gone is the kindof device more artists should use. The Last to Leave waltzes from an oldtime C&W intro to lush countrypolitan sonics, a vividly sardonic, metaphorically-charged after-the-party scenario. The album’s best song is the wailing, electrifying murder ballad Old Screen Door: Troost’s genius with this one is that the only images he lets you see are incidental to what was obviously a grisly crime, “lightning bugs floating through a haze of gasoline” and so forth. It’s one of the best songs in any style released in recent months, a sort of teens update on the Walkabouts’ Pacific Northwest gothic classic Firetrap. Slide guitar fuels the upbeat, anthemically triumphant Weary Traveler, while I’ll Be Home Soon ends the album on an unexpectedly balmy, optimistic note. Fans of Steve Earle, James McMurtry, Jeffrey Foucault and the rest of that crew will find an awful lot to like in Troost’s brooding, intense songcraft.

Jeffrey Foucault Brings His Dark Lyrical Americana to the Rockwood

On one hand, Jeffrey Foucault is the type of songwriter you see on Mountain Stage. He pretty much lives on the road, playing respectably midsize venues, something he’s been doing for the better part of ten years. But his moody, mostly slow-to-midtempo songs are a lot smarter and more interesting than most of what’s passing up and down the Americana highway. As befalls most songwriters who take their lyrics seriously these days, his twangy rock is heavily infused with country and blues, in the same vein as Steve Earle or James McMurtry. But where McMurtry will wind a yarn, Foucault spins off one image after another; where Earle heads for the country, Foucault goes off into growling Neil Young territory. He’s playing the big room at the Rockwood on March 5 at 7 PM on an intriguing doublebill with another lyrically-inclined Americana guy, Peter Mulvey.

Foucault’s most recent album Horse Latitudes doesn’t sound anything like the Doors, nor does it have artwork by Turner. Recorded in a whirlwind three-day session, it has some absolutely brilliant playing from an all-star cast: the ubiquitous Eric Heywood on pedal steel and lead guitar, Morphine’s Billy Conway on drums, Jennifer Condos on bass, and Van Dyke Parks, of all people, on keyboards.

The title track opens on a slowly swaying, dusky note  anchored by fingerpicked guitar and Conway’s meticulously ominous, boomy rhythm, with a simmering Heywood pedal steel crescendo on the way out. Foucault drawls a litany of doomed, surreal imagery:

Singing into the belly of a whale
Leviathan’s ribs, a drowning jail
The desert at the bottom of the sea
The devil with his finger on the scale

Pretty Girl in A Small Town makes it clear that Foucault spent some time listening to Nirvana at some point: “You used to walk to get away, there was nowhere you could stay,” begins this chronicle of frustration and isolation, themes that recur throughout his work. Starlight and Static sways moodily as Foucault eulogizes a nameless rocker he felt a kinship to: “They all thought they knew you, and I wanted no one to know me too.” He follows the bleakly skeletal acoustic vignette Heart to the Husk with the brooding nocturne Last Night I Dreamed of Television, with more Turner imagery over  marvelously stygian drumming.

Goners Most evokes Richard Buckner at his most minimalist as Foucault memorializes a teenage romance that never had a prayer. Everybody’s Famous contrasts Parks’ surrealist organ with Heywood’s casual savagery: with its enigmatic, Leonard Cohen-esque anger, it’s the best song on the album :

Everybody knows it, they saw your billboard in the rain
They heard your mama crying and you forgot your own real name
And she voted for your heartbreak and she smiled at your shame
Everybody’s famous
Everyone’s the same

Idaho paints a wintry tableau as Heywood’s steel sizzles and burns; then, on Passerines, Foucault juxtaposes considerably more ominous imagery over a slow, minor-key Tonight’s the Night groove. The album ends with the gently fingerpicked two-guitar reminiscence Tea and Tobacco and the unexpectedly upbeat, honkytonk-flavored road song Real Love. Foucault’s popularity is a welcome reminder that there’s still a sizeable audience for low-key, lyrically-driven rock that requires close listening. It also raises the question of how many other Jeffrey Foucaults there might be out there, battling their demons in song and pondering where the hell they’ll get the money to go out there on the road so they never have to come back.