Lambchop have made a number of outstanding albums as they've evolved from "Nashville's most f–ked-up country band" to a singular chamber pop ensemble during a career that lasted nearly two decades, but one of their finest works is not really a Lambchop album at all. Vic Chesnutt recruited Lambchop to serve as his backing band on the 1998 album The Salesman and Bernadette, and the results were a marvelous fusion of the group's broad but emotionally intimate approach and Chesnutt's witty, skewed, and perceptive gifts as a songwriter. Chesnutt and Lambchop's Kurt Wagner seemed like kindred spirits, fellow Southerners who married oblique yet telling poetry to melodies that were strong yet fluidly graceful, and it should surprise no one that Wagner was hit hard by Chesnutt's death in late 2009. Lambchop's first studio project since Chesnutt's passing, 2012's Mr. M, is dedicated to Wagner's friend and collaborator, and though the songs don't deal explicitly with Chesnutt, there's a sense of sorrow in these songs that's deeper than what we've come to expect from Lambchop, infused with an air of reflection and regret that's impossible to miss.
Lambchop hails from Nashville and claims to play a "refined, and redefined" style of country music, but the songs the band creates on its second album, How I Quit Smoking, have more in common with Brit crooners the Tindersticks than Chet Atkins and Billy Sherrill (whom the Lambchop members claim as heroes). Boasting 13 players on this album, Lambchop feels more like an art collective on a mission of enlightenment than a country band bent on AM airplay. Still, with subtlely threads of clarinet, sax, organ, and even a full string section integrated into the mix alongside a double-necked lap steel and an impressive lineup of vintage guitars, the music is so lush, lovely, and thoroughly hypnotic you can see their point. The country element lies buried in the subtle rhythms and melodies, surfacing in the quiet moan of the lap steel or the melancholic flutter of the strings. Spooky as often as it is soothing, Lambchop's music may not be the fireside countrypolitan of Atkins or Sherrill – I don't think either would put up with the babbling rhymes of "Smuckers," the sinister guitars that mark "The Militant," or the existential undercurrents of "The Scary Caroler".
A minimalist masterpiece a million miles from Nashville country, Kurt Wagner's latest Lambchop album pursues the electronica soundbed and vocoder vocals first employed on FLOTUS. The chilly sheen of its glitchy synth surfaces soon gives way to an envelopng warmth, enhanced by Wagner's crackly vocal, always teetering on the edge of distortion, its electronic soundscapes enhanced by spectral piano melodies, endlessly inventive bass and intiutive drumming from his trio of sidemen. With its melancholic mood and lyrics rooted in reflection and regret, this could be the birth of an entirely new genre - electro-jazz noir.
With ’This (Is What I Wanted To Tell You)’ Lambchop continue to establish themselves as forerunners and innovators of what was once called Alt Country. Their sound has morphed to encompass multiple genres, blending folk songwriting with the tones of urban soul. Following on from the pioneering sounds of ‘Flotus' (2017), ’This (Is what I wanted to tell you)’ showcases Lambchop at a new peak in their career, whilst still retaining the ingredients of their classic albums. ’This’ is brimming with ideas, songs and hooks. A huge influence on the new direction is Matthew McCaughan (of Bon Iver and Hiss Golden Messenger), who produced and co-wrote large parts of the album together with Kurt Wagner.
An alternative country band from Nashville, Tennessee. The band is known for its resistance to easy genre classification and its ever changing line up, which revolves around front man - Kurt Wagner, who's distinctive song writing evokes the characteristic moods of the bands style.
The successful self-titled reissue of Fame-era material released in early 2004 allowed Candi Staton to make this, her first secular album in several years. Where 1999's Outside In was a way to take advantage of her unplanned return to the clubs – a couple singles released during the '90s used a vocal she recorded for a documentary about a man's struggle with life-threatening obesity – His Hands is 100 percent Southern soul. Staton involves several family members and longtime associates, including son Marcus Williams (a seasoned drummer who has played with her for years), daughter Cassandra Hightower, sister Maggie Staton Peebles, and Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section organist Barry Beckett. It might be surprising to see that Lambchop's Mark Nevers produced the session, and that Lambchop ally Lloyd Barry arranged the horns, but both men have done extensive work with Staton's peers in the gospel world.
On reflection, it's no wonder that so many artists were available for Total Lee: The Songs of Lee Hazlewood. Hazlewood occupies a position in posterity similar to that of the Velvet Underground–ignored by the world at large, but disproportionately adored by fellow musicians. Hazlewood's only glimpse of popular appeal occurred when Nancy Sinatra had a worldwide hit with his "These Boots Are Made For Walking"–a karaoke standard ignored by the 16 artists who appear on this tribute album. What is startling about this fine collection is that a lot of the artists here seem endearingly unable to separate their admiration for Hazlewood's songs from Hazlewood's myth: for most young men who've ever picked up a guitar, Hazlewood's life of meandering from town to town, girl to girl, bottle to bottle, has a certain aspirational quality, and may be the reason why every male artist on this album finds himself, consciously or not, adopting Hazlewood's signature consumptive drawl: The Webb Brothers, Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley, Calexico and Erlend Oye are more impersonation than interpretation, but nonetheless engaging.