In the first installment of what turned out to be a too-long attempt to recap the month of April I closed by saying, “… I didn’t even get to how Anais Mitchell’s album transformed me one morning while working last week, or how discovering honeyhoney’s Daytrotter session was one of the best surprises ever, and prompted me to buy their album, too (AND contribute to one of the great causes with which they’re affiliated, Feed Them With Music – check them out and give here), so they’ll all have to wait until next time.” It’s next time.

There really aren’t any words powerful enough to describe Anais Mitchell’s Young Man in America, her latest full-length. Singing sometimes as the titular young man, sometimes as a character singing to or about him, and sometimes as someone seemingly unrelated to the storyline, the songs intertwine, weaving a tale at once tragic and beautiful. At several points it reminds me of her masterfully collaborative so-called “folk opera”, Hadestown – stark, simple, aching. The raw strength of these songs is belied by her soft, sometimes almost childlike tone and phrasing, which really only lends even more power to some of the more poignant lyrics. I dare you to listen to “The Shepherd“, for instance, and not be moved.

Finding honeyhoney was one of those very happy accidents that come along all too rarely. I’d gone to the Daytrotter site to grab another artist’s leavings, and scrolled down as I always do, sampling here, dropping in there, and for some reason listened a little longer to some of the honeyhoney tunes. I downloaded the short session and was promptly blown away, even though it was a little more twangy than I generally like. The lead singer reminded me of an even more drawl-ly Grace Potter – that same whiskey-soaked strength and honesty – but with banjo and fiddle behind it. I looked them up, hesitated not at all in buying their complete LP, and found a few really fun-looking videos. One of those was recorded as part of a Project called Feed Them With Music. Many artists are taking part in this effort, so check it out and see if you can help a little, too. Each song, it seems, has at least a few clever lines, like this one from “Don’t Know How“:

“I sold all my clothes to get rid of your smell

Smashed all the clocks that had the right time to tell

Me how long it has been since we parted ways

Don’t know how to leave you when I want to stay.”

One of the other finds I skipped last time has been right under my nose, metaphorically, while in reality being on the other side of the world most of the time. Robin Nievera is my nephew, and usually lives and records in the Philippines, like his famous parents and many other family members. He’s mastered the electric guitar at a relatively young age, and his first full album is a wonder, showcasing his songwriting, singing and performing talents in their best possible light. (I’d say that even if he wasn’t related. And anyway, what’s a little nepotizz among friends?) Check out “In 3’s” below, and then get, and dig, the whole collection, called Overwait. (And try to get that riff outta your head. You’re welcome.) Hopefully that title doesn’t refer to the period between now and his next offerings.

More recently, I’ve downloaded Silversun Pickups’ newest, Neck of the Woods, and while I haven’t rated the whole thing yet, I’ve heard enough to know it’s at least as good as Swoon, or anything else they’ve done. I also know that I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve wished my car stereo went to 11 when one of these new tunes popped up. I’ll probably have more on them next time after I’ve fully digested the entire album, but for now check out “Make Believe”, “Mean Spirits”, “Simmer”, and “Gun-shy Sunshine”.

Also just secured Sara Watkins’ most recent collection, Sun Midnight Sun. I’ve only heard one song: “The Ward Accord” just popped up on shuffle and its instrumental loveliness told me right away that it could only be Sara. She’s long been a favorite of mine, from Nickel Creek days to being able to see her on tour, alone and in the Decemberists’ traveling band, and I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. She and brother Sean have been podcasting some truly wonderful shows from sunny CA, enlisting a motley and fun-loving (and sounding) crowd of like-minded and uber-talented friends to help (like Fiona Apple, Benmont Tench from Petty’s band, Jackson Browne and others), several of whom appear on the record. More on that one next time, too.

Sara Watkins, The Ward Accord from Sun Midnight Sun

Looking forward to Luka Bloom’s latest, as well, fresh off the mojo wire, and I’m sure I’ll be summing that one up here. (And since this site’s see-saw was been tilted WAY too heavily toward the Sounds section, I’ll have a Visions post up soon – my take on Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole, a novel set in the Dark Tower universe, somewhere between books 4 & 5. Don’t miss it.)

Until then keep listening, and don’t forget to share the sounds that have been spinning in your heads. Others wanna ride, too!

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