Tuesday, March 24, 2015

This House is Humming with Hope and Honesty

The caravan has left the station, but it’s not too late to get on board this journey to rollicking musical joy.

Anyone too cynical to pack a Kerouac rucksack or someone who thinks that the folk-pop revival is in decline because Mumford went electric, this person needs to suspend doubt and get inside the eclectic new full-length offering from Nashville troubadours Humming House. These sincere and soaring sounds should keep the new folk pantheon open for blessed blissful business, humming with hope and honesty.

Joining the ranks of great bands like the Beatles, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, or CSNY who change the world with harmonies and more than one lead singer, this elegant pop jam session sounds almost too good to be true. As Justin Tam and Leslie Rodriguez trade duties giving voice and vision to these eleven elevating ditties, listeners can get lost in the sounds that alternate between rambling road songs and passionate love songs. In the studio, Humming House take the dancing jamboree of their live shows up another notch in musical heaven, where accessible polish meets the faded and frayed familiarity of your granny’s front porch.

Humming House still travel in a van and are young enough to be fans of their own artform that continues to draw fans. Even though their catalog of original tunes is limited to two studio albums, they don’t skimp with too-short live sets like some bands do, but rather, fill out their time onstage with an epic array of cover songs. The Humming House versatility seasoned with their visionary openness means that fans of folk, rock, country, jazz, and traditional music can all find their way onto the entourage, showing up soon at a club, campus, or festival near you.

From start-to-finish after multiple listens, this record reveals new nuggets of sonic satisfaction every time; there’s not a weak track in the entire set. This music is dance-along memorable and sing-along meaningful and shout-out-loud lovely. Revelries reveals a top new Nashville talent that will take your ears and soul somewhere special.
Photos by Andrew Smith from Humming House at Tennessee Tech in April 2014. 
Revelries by Humming House is out today.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Sun Is Rising / Scare Away The Dark (TOTR 223/224)

#223 “The Sun is Rising”
Rev. Edward Clayburn – Wrong Way To Celebrate Christmas
African Children’s Choir – Kumbaya
Taj Mahal & the Blind Boys of Alabama – The Sun is Rising
Yusuf – You Are My Sunshine
Pentatonix - White Winter Hymnal
Jim Henry - The Tree
Mark Kozelek - O Christmas Tree
The Lower Lights - I Saw Three Ships
Kemper Crabb - Down In Yon Forest
Sufjan Stevens - Angels We Have Heard On High
Michael W. Smith - The Darkest Midnight featuring Bono
Emmylou Harris – There’s A Light
Loreena McKennitt - Good King Wenceslas
Revels Chorus - Wonderful Counselor
Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers - Christ Was Born On Christmas Morn
Rotary Connection - Silent Night Chant
Anthony Hamilton - Little Drummer Boy
Anthony Hamilton - Away In A Manger
Gregory Porter - Go Tell It On The Mountain / Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Jesse Colin Young - Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella
Great Big Sea - Seven Joys Of Mary
Elizabeth Mitchell - Children, Go Where I Send Thee
Johnnyswim - O Come All Ye FaithfulWe
Punch Brothers - O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Beta Radio - O Holy Night
Folk Angel - Joy To The World

#224 “Scare Away The Dark”
Beck - Morning
The New Basement Tapes - Kansas City
Ray LaMontagne – She’s the One
Foy Vance - You And I (featuring Bonnie Raitt)
Needtobreathe - Difference Maker
Angaleena Presley - American Middle Class
Against Me! - Two Coffins
Roadkill Ghost Choir - Womb
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - All You Can Carry
Delta Spirit - Take Shelter
Cold War Kids - Hotel Anywhere
TV On The Radio - Right Now
Ben & Ellen Harper - A House Is A Home
Jack White - Alone In My Home
Robert Ellis - Chemical Plant
Sun Kil Moon - I Love My Dad
Run River North - Growing Up
Johnnyswim - Live While We’re Young
Yusuf - Dying to Live
the Collection - The Art of Dying
St. Paul – I’m Torn Up
Natalie Merchant - Go Down Moses
Sturgill Simpson - A Little Light
Mike Farris - This Little Light
Passenger - Scare Away The Dark
U2 - Song For Someone (Acoustic) 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Before My Time (TOTR 222)

The Open Mind – Before My Time
Hot Tuna – New Song For The Morning
New Riders of the Purple Sage – Glendale Train
13th Floor Elevators – Dust
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Hope
Mountain Bus – Sundance
Farm Band – Let It Ride - 1972
Closer To The Ground – Closer To The Ground
Jo Jo Gunne – Flying Home
Batdorf & Rodney – Long Way From Heaven
Mother Earth – Deliver Me
Humble Pie – Alabama 69
Allman Brothers Band – Melissa
Brian Auger &Julie Tippetts – Freedom Highway
Simon and Garfunkel – Mrs. Robinson
James Taylor – Fire And Rain
Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky
Harpers Bizarre – If We Ever Needed The Lord Before
Dobie Gray – Drift Away
Gallery – I Believe In Music
Rhinoceros – It’s a Groovy World
Dr. Hook &The Medicine Show – Sing Me A Rainbo
Sailcat – On The Brighter Side of It All

Brewer & Shipley – The Light

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fool's Wisdom (TOTR 221)

Randy Matthews – Holy Band
Mustard Seed – Shepherd's Song
Malcolm & Alwyn – Fool’s Wisdom
The Eternal Savings & Trust Company – Karin
Cephas – Show Me The Way
Canaan – Jesus Revolution
Arthur Blessit – SoulSession (Excerpt)
The Joyful Noise – High On Jesus
The Four Corners Gospel Experience – Jesus Rocks
AndraĆ© Crouch and the Disciples – Satisfied
Michael Omartian – Take Me Down
Dust – Gone
Paul Clark – Which One Are You
Resurrection Band – Better Way
Earthen Vessel – Let Jesus Bring You Back
Spirit & Understanding – It’s Jesus That They Need
Master’s Lantern – Amen, Amen
Holy Ghost Reception Committee – Hey Lord
Azitis – From This Place
Jack Miffleton, Skipp Sanders, & The Group – Revolutionary Peace  
Agape   Rejoice
California Earthquake – Let There Be Light
Richie Furay – Dance a Little Light
Song of Solomon/Pete Giardina – Dance Song
Wilson McKinley – One in the Spirit
Barry McGuire – Love Is
God Unlimited – Joy  

Monday, July 28, 2014

In The Garden (TOTR 220)

Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything
Oasis – Up In The Sky
Paul McCartney – Heart Of The Country
The Beatles – Good Day Sunshine
Donovan – Sun
Christie Hennessy – Mr. Sunshine’s On My Side
Vashti Bunyan – Come Wind Come Rain
The Incredible String Band – The Water Song
Pentangle – Light Flight
The Albion Band – Rainbow Over The Hill
Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game
Moving Hearts – May Morning Dew
Planxty – Well Below the Valley
Johnny Duhan – In The Garden
The Chieftains – Down In The Willow Garden
Van Morrison – In The Garden
Mumford & Sons – Thistle & Weeds
The Lost Brothers – Those Ancient Eyes
Fionn Regan – Hey Rabbit
Loudest Whisper – Lord Have Mercy
Bread, Love & Dreams – He Who Knows All
Simple Kid – A Song Of Stone
Boy George – King of Everything
U2 – An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gown of Grief: The Collection’s courageous collection of songs of mourning & celebration

No abundant bright bloom of flowers on the CD cover or obscure Latin in the title or gentle dance of cursive font describing the song list, nothing can hide that this is not your light-and-breezy summer release of cruising-with-the-top-down jams, but rather, a full-blown concept album of folk hymns about the art of dying.

The Art of Dying (officially Ars Moriendi) represents a brave and risky move for the make-it or break-it breakout album of an up-and-coming band. The Collection’s courageous collection of orchestral pop hymns chart and curate the grieving heart of a gifted songwriter and the community of bandmates and fans that surround him.

At a time when the flame of the alternative folk explosion still burns bright despite much backlash, this North Carolina ensemble shows up as the son of Mumford and Sons, married-to-Edward Sharpe’s second cousin, with too many members to pack the tiny stages of clubs and bars, with a sound fit for mountaintop vistas and songs as mystic visions that pierce the veil between life and death.

Despite the heavy earnestness of the entire package, it’s exactly the grief-support-group that my ears need, and I imagine a rendering of fragile faith and hope against hope that our world craves. The Collection manage to sing about Jesus and Thomas and the prodigal son without getting pushy, dancing on the fringe of explicit CCM, exploring sacred-meets-secular crossover paths and gritty crossroads that groups like Needtobreathe, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and Gungor have already traveled.

Death remains that earthly finality to render our denial mute—and our religious musings about whether it represents cosmic reunion, bodily resurrection, or eternal rest are powerless when we admit that the mysterious premonitions of the “heaven is real” crowd are but passing glimpses and not bulletproof facts. The Christians that remain relevant in our world have invested in the Kingdom here, now, and all around us, and they don’t shove tracts that guarantee afterlife fantasies in our faces on the same streetcorners where tramps and hobos sleep and sometimes starve.

This album is everything but a tract, and a cosmic creation consciousness drips from every track as David Wimbish invites listeners on the single “Gown of Green” to “Stop looking at the ground, start looking at the leaves” because “up among the dirt and rust is where the kingdom breathes.”

This kingdom doesn’t suckle at the unenlightened nipple of mindless obedience to stiff doctrine, yet instead it feeds on seeds and weeds and breeds wild green freedom for the dangerous disciples daring to “sow the earth with diligence and love.” Anthems for an anarchic 21st-century faith do not come with pat power-point slides and tidy handouts and bullet-point programs for salvation.

Wimbish moans with melody and groans with gravity what we were already thinking: “a cross hangs around your neck so loose/and though it brings you life, sometimes it feels just like a noose/but god is not disappointed in you/but love and beauty haunt you in your dreams.” The Collection sip from the overflowing cup of spiritual freedom, and one taste of this new wine might make bland another taste of the lukewarm life-numbing churchianity still making its way around the land.

As my daddy departed this earth this past May, I must confess many attempts to review this album have been interrupted by uncontrollable fits of weeping. The solemn-yet-exuberant trance invoked by these songs does not easily evoke translation as a regular record review. These ruminations about death inspire a rant against death: I want to dance and scream and just cry some more. There is an emptiness on the other side of emptiness where it can feel pointless to carry on, because, we’re all just going to die anyways, right?

How quickly gratitude can give way to apathy when you suffer from the lazy grief of which C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book. Wimbish wonders if he even has the “right” to sing his songs in this world filled with wrong. I feel the same way about writing this review, not to mention the countless poems and sermons and social media statuses I continue to crank out, about a laundry list of worldly hopes and woes. Is anyone even listening? Does anyone even care?

Did you ever wonder if Jesus ever asked himself if anyone was listening to his crazy stitched quilt of parables and poems? Was anyone even nourished from yet another dinner party, another feast of bread and wine? Up-and-coming musical artists like The Collection don’t make much money to speak of and often go into debt instead. Sadly, there are probably several thousands of souls who would love to hear these songs but may not be plugged into the blogs and indie radio and social scenes that would make it possible. 

Yet—The Collection carries on anyhow, and those of us who get to wrap ourselves in these sonic poems and potent songs are inevitably changed and charged to share our reactions to these prophetic tunes. These tunes bring soaring melodies, mythic crescendos, orchestral aches, sponsored by a rambling circus-tent revival of songcrafters touring the country for just a few weeks in a rented van, before many return to dayjobs as educators and artists and theologians and recording engineers and foodies and what have you.

The Collection is a collection of friends I could not have dreamed into being. They hold open the door to heaven for just a few milliseconds, and the view is foggy with the limits of our vision, but the songs are bigger than they are, bigger than we are, and they are a form of poetry that even poetry cannot touch. Somehow, I hear angels, and my dead Daddy has a new body and is dancing with me.

For tour dates & more information about how to get your own copy of Ars Moriendi, please visit:

Photo by Stephanie Berbec Photography  http://stephanieberbec.com/