TRAPPER SCHOEPP – Primetime Illusion (XtraMile)

Primetime IllusionBased in Wisconsin, Schoepp’s third album, Primetime Illusion, produced by Wilco’s Pat Sansone, boasts a co-write with Dylan in celebration of his hometown. Well, sort of. Closing the album, the waltztime ‘On, Wisconsin’ has its origins in news that, back in 1961, Dylan had written but never recorded a song about a homesick traveller pining for his home state. A former roommate unearthed the handwritten lyric and put it up for auction. Schoepp didn’t stump up the $30,000 asking price but he did see a photo of the words and set them to music, sending his arrangement to Dylan’s management, eventually getting consent to publish as a co-write.

It also served as a catalyst to start writing his own material again after going through a series of downers that included the end of a lengthy relationship being forced out of his home, suffering the recurrence of a hernia in his back and, worst of all, the election of Trump. All of which fed into the songs on this break-up album, both on a traditional level and also with his country.

It opens with the tribal drum thump of ‘Shakedown’, 12-string guitar ringing track that suggests Tom Petty constitutes a healthy percentage of his music collection. If that has a buoyant optimistic feel, he quickly sets that to lyrical rights with the fingersnapping rhythm and cascading chords melody of the infectious 60s-inflected ‘It’s Over’ (12-string again making is presence felt) and the piano-accompanied mid-tempo ballad ‘Drive-Thru Divorce’ where those Petty influences hold hands with Billy Joel.

Indeed, this is very much a pop album, jammed with catchy melodies, punchy riffs and hooks, taking a tougher, bluesier groove on ‘Freight Train’, wailing harmonica on the bopping Nicole Atkins collaboration ‘What You Do To Her’ and nodding to Free’s ‘All Right Now’ on the opening of the strutting ‘If All My Nines Were X’s’.

The soulfully sung ‘Sleight Of Hand’ shows the softer side musically, keys, harmonica, bass and tambourine providing the backdrop while spaghetti western twang chews on a cigar for ‘TV Shows’. At just over five minutes, introduced by a chugging guitar riff, ‘My Comrade’ is the longest cut, another big production nod to the sort of classic American rock’n’roll celebrated by bands like The Replacements, The Feelies and Soul Asylum. Sure, the Dylan connection may be news and attract the curious, but, actually it’s the least interesting number here on an album that ably demonstrates Schoepp has no need to ride anyone’s coattails.

Mike Davies

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It has to be ‘On, Wisconsin’ – live in the studio:

Joe Pug – new album: Windfall

Joe_Pug_2011RELEASED ON 9th MARCH 2015 ON LOOSE MUSIC

Hear First Track ‘If Still It Can’t Be Found’ Ft. Pat Sansone From Wilco

Out On 19th January 2015

Austin, TX singer songwriter Joe Pug has announced his new album Windfall will be released on 9th March 2015 on Loose Music.

The first single ‘If Still It Can’t Be Found’ was premiered on Rolling Stones and it features Wilco’s Pat Sansone on mellotrone and it will be released on January 19th.

Listen to the single…

His rise has been as improbable as it has been impressive. After dropping out of college and taking on work as a carpenter in Chicago, he got his musical start by providing CDs for his fans to pass along to their friends. This led to a string of sold out shows and a record deal with Nashville indie Lightning Rod Records. After that he relentlessly toured for 4 years behind “Messenger” (2010) and The Great Despiser (2012),  playing over four hundred shows, including stops at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and The Newport Folk Festival.

The grind of four years of nonstop touring had taken its toll though, and by late 2013 he was ready to call it quits. Studio time was already scheduled though and deadlines had been set for a new record, so after a few weeks Pug was back to the business of writing songs.

“In retrospect, I was in a very unhealthy place. I was sitting in a room with the blinds shut and a notebook, forcing out words that weren’t there and drinking astonishing amounts of bourbon. I was looking at it as a job… as a business obligation, and that is a very slippery slope.” At that point he decided to make good on his promise from the previous tour. The album was put on indefinite hold. “I just needed to start behaving like a human being again.  I needed to reconnect with my girlfriend. I needed to eat healthy food. I needed to go enjoy live music as a fan. I really needed to make sure I still loved making music, because I really had my doubts at that point.”

The resulting layoff paid dividends in spades. When Pug set up camp in Lexington, KY in 2014 to record, he did so with some of the best songs he has ever written. The agenda was much simpler than previous albums. “The aim on this one was very straightforward. We wanted to capture the music just the way we play it, with minimal production. It was a very back to basics approach because ultimately that’s what I love about music, and that’s what I love about making music. I wanted to record these songs the way they were written and put them out in the world.” The result is ‘Windfall’, a collection of songs that are as close as we’ve gotten to a road map to Pug’s ambitions. He has collected plenty of the requisite Dylan comparisons over his young career but on this record it’s easier to hear the sway of more contemporary influences like Josh Ritter, Ryan Adams and M.Ward.

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Changing Horses – The Nashville Sessions

Changing Horses are British Indie-Folk duo Richard Birtill (vocals and guitar) and Francesca Cullen (vocals, violin, mandolin and melodeon). Stylistically taking influence from the psychedelic likes of The Incredible String Band, and the experimental art-punk of The Fall, theirs is a patchwork of off-kilter folk that has drawn in the plaudits from numerous sources. After holing up in a Nashville studio with session musician / producer Chris Donohue (Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris) the track ‘Cut All Strings’ featured on an HBO documentary and went on to pick up multiple plays on both the Steve Lamacq and Bob Harris BBC radio shows. Last year’s festival season also saw the band grace stages at Kendal Calling, Solfest, Brampton, Crawley Folk Festival and SO festival.

It’s on the live circuit the Changing Horses’ reputation has been built. The last few months have seen them perform as main support to the likes of Jeffrey Lewis, Pat Sansone (Wilco), Ade Edmondson and Adam Green. Captured here on The Nashville Sessions however, is a band vying for the unconventional, yet still maintaining core melodies. Flitting between the wistful (Cut All Strings), the fragile (One Million Screaming Angels) and the macabre (‘Till Death), when things do take a more popular twist, Birtill’s wrought vocals still punctuate Cullen’s neat string play. In turn, I Don’t Need It’s discordant opening phrasing soon makes way for a wave of anthemic guitars.

“Truly original and delightful” – Robin Williamson, The Incredible String Band

Deeply personal songwriting, tongue-in-cheek moments, macabre themes and innovative string playing make up Changing Horses’ The Nashville Sessions; a strong debut from a band that lives to draw the listener into their own lovesick universe.

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