I wanted to do a write up on each of these records, but both artists are so new, that there’s not a lot to be said other than they have really great records. These two albums reminded me a lot of one another and they fit together very well. In fact, I made a playlist with both albums and just put it on “random” and had a pretty seamless listening experience.
John Fullbright: From the Ground Up
Release Date: May 8, 2012
How does a relative no-name from Oklahoma earn a Grammy nomination alongside Mumford and Sons, Bonnie Raitt, The Lumineers, and The Avett Brothers? He makes one heck of a record, that’s how. (Oh, and we’ll ignore the fact that he’s only 24 and the record was originally intended to only be a demo.)
John Fullbright hails from just outside Okemah, OK (birthplace of Woody Guthrie). He released a live record in 2009 and started touring the Folk/America club and festival circuit. He released his first studio record in May 2012 and basically just kept on doing what he had been doing. Apparently, the right people got hold of it and it was nominated for the Best Americana Album at this year’s Grammy Awards. (This is one of the many awards that went un-televised, but you may remember our friend John Mayer congratulating his co-introducer, Bonnie Raitt, for winning this category.)
His sound is reminiscent of a number of the greats from the last 50 years of music. I hear strands of Dylan, early Tom Waits, and Ryan Adams. At some turns melodic and romantic, at other turns fierce and formidable. His harmonica work is just as good as his guitar and his songwriting has earned him accolades from ASCAP. He’s the real deal. Check out “Gawd Above”, “Jericho”, and “Nowhere to be Found”.
First Aid Kit: The Lion’s Roar
Release Date: Jan 24, 2012
When my friend Tom told me that I needed to check this European female duo that Rolling Stone had featured in their Top 50 Songs of 2012, I was expecting something along the lines of Tegan and Sara, The Ting Tings, or Goldfrapp. I certainly didn’t think ’70s Americana-folk. (Can it be considered Americana if their are from Sweden? Yah? Yah. Yah? Yah.)
When I heard “Emmylou” it conjured up comparisons to Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Natalie Maines, and hints of Zooey Deschanel. And I dream of the anti-beatnik roadtripping through the California desert in a VW van listening to this record along with the Mamas and the Poppas and Scott McKenzie’s “If You’re Going to San Francisco”. I can hardly describe the music without using pictures because it is so resonant with that cultural history.
Of course the great irony is that it is not the history of those singing it. Sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg hail from Enskede, Sweden. (No, they can’t get you a discount at Ikea, but they may at least be able to help you pronounce the product names.) At the ripe old ages of 20 and 23, they are making music well beyond their years. It’s niche music, of course, which can either make for a very short or surprisingly lengthy career. Even with the faux- nu-Americana of Mumford and The Lumineers rising to the cultural mainstream, this type of music is probably too retro to ever really break through.