wears the trousers magazine


words in edgeways with allison moorer
February 10, 2010, 2:54 pm
Filed under: feature, words in edgeways | Tags: , , ,

Released this week, Allison Moorer’s seventh studio album Crows finds the Alabama-born singer-songwriter in rejuvenated form, turning in a thematically rich set of songs that take her into a sonic space she hasn’t really explored before. Produced once more by Nashville producer R.S. Field, who helmed her stately 2002 release Miss Fortune and contributed to its follow-up The Duel, Crows is a classy collection that, at its very best, exudes reflective Southern soul and a sensual grace that mainstream country artists just can’t rival. Wears The Trousers caught up with Allison over email recently to find out more…

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allison moorer: crows (2010)
January 12, 2010, 7:44 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , ,

Allison Moorer
Crows ••••
Rykodisc

Much like her sister Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer is one of those artists who often seems to have been on the verge of a major mainstream breakthrough without ever quite achieving it. Moorer first came to prominence in the late ’90s when her timeless ballad ‘A Soft Place To Fall’ was featured in Robert Redford’s film ‘The Horse Whisperer’ and later put up for an Oscar. Since then, she’s released a string of albums which have expanded the traditional-yet-fresh palette of her debut Alabama Song into areas of rock, pop and soul. And yet, while consistently well reviewed, her albums have never received quite as much attention as they deserve, placing her in a slightly odd position as an artist. Too unpredictable to fit comfortably within the bland mainstream yet too conventional to be considered ‘alt.’, Moorer’s work exists somewhere in between, never achieving the commercial clout of a factory-produced country diva nor the critical (over-)acclaim of a Lucinda Williams.

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wears the trousers albums of the decade #25-1

part onepart twopart three

Here’s the fourth and final part of our albums of the decade countdown, 25 albums so fantastic they should have sold millions (and, lo, some of them did!)…

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25

Shannon Wright
Maps Of Tacit

[Touch & Go / Quarterstick, 2000]

Distilling everything that was good about her former band Crowsdell and her first album flightsafety, and stripping them of their twee chirpiness and indie-pop sensibilities, Shannon Wright created her finest, and darkest, work in Maps Of Tacit. A multilayered tour de force, the guitar is aggressive without being brash and the creepy, stirring piano swirls with all the innocence and foreboding of a decaying calliope; the overall effect is both intricate and cinematic. Together with some creative use of sampled sounds, dense poetic lyrics and Wright’s alternately silky and caustic vocals, it all adds up to a delightfully chilling labour of love.

Terry Mulcahy

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wears the trousers albums of the decade #50–26

part one | part two | part four

Here’s the third part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #50–26.

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50

Queen Adreena
Drink Me

[Rough Trade, 2002]

Casting aside the disparaging comparisons to “Kate Bush on crack” bestowed upon her in the wake of Queen Adreena’s debut album Taxidermy, KatieJane Garside upped the ante with Drink Me, tearing whatever hinges that were still attached right off with a blisteringly manic grunge-metal fervour. Among her Wonderland’s re-energised malice, the softer moments found Garside’s raging voice shrunk mouse-high, whispering seductively as if through the keyhole, or chillingly into a void. Richly imaginative and manically enjoyable, Drink Me remains one of the decade’s most vigorous and visceral thrills, disturbing to the very last note.

Alan Pedder

read our interview with KatieJane

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wears the trousers albums of the decade #75-51

part one part threepart four

Here’s the second part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #75–51.

* * *

75

Róisín Murphy
Overpowered

[EMI, 2007]

Of all the critical droolfests that failed to ignite on the commercial front this decade, Róisín Murphy’s second solo album is among the most inexplicable damp squibs. The ex-Moloko frontwoman may have shed the avant-garde experimentalism of her solo debut Ruby Blue in favour of full-on disco diva mode, set against a backdrop of thumping, shimmering state-of-the-art production, but it seems the world wasn’t ready to accept even Murphy’s toned down personality quirks. That’s a real shame for although Overpowered is not without its flaws, there is a sense of playful grandeur here that can easily toe the line with Goldfrapp at their most teasing.

Chris Catchpole

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wears the trousers albums of the decade #100-76

part twopart three | part four

As other people have already noted, among the rash of lists proclaiming the best albums and artists of the ’00s, the majority all had one thing in common: a distinct and depressing lack of albums by solo female artists and by female-fronted bands. We had anticipated a representation rate of between 20% and 30%, but it turned out to be even lower. NME and Rolling Stone awarded a lousy 12–15% of spots to women, and even Paste magazine, who often champion many of the artists Wears The Trousers holds dear, could barely scrape 14%.

In mid-November, eight Wears The Trousers writers and editors gathered around a table at the Candid Arts Centre in Islington, where we spent a long afternoon debating the 300+ nominations for albums of the decade gathered from all our contributors. More than six hours later, we had come up with a rough outline of the 100 albums we thought were worthy of championing. Inevitably, some painful sacrifices were made, evident in the fact that only three artists were permitted to have two entries in the list, and some additional fine tuning was required.

This week, we’ll at last be counting down those 100 albums, 25 at a time. Here are albums #100–76. Voice your agreement/disagreement/outrage in the comment box if you please.

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joan baez: how sweet the sound (2009)
December 10, 2009, 9:02 am
Filed under: film & dvd, review | Tags: , , ,

Joan Baez
How Sweet The Sound ••••
Proper

Screened earlier this week on BBC1, this American Masters documentary is now available in an excellent two-disc package which supplements the film with bonus content and a soundtrack CD of live performances. Given Baez’s centrality to American cultural and political life over the past five decades, the most surprising about the documentary is that it wasn’t made much sooner. While Bob Dylan’s career has been the subject of a multitude of docs and bios, essays and retrospectives, Baez’s work – both as artist and activist – has received comparably little scrutiny or contextualisation. Yes, her classic Vanguard albums have been carefully and conscientiously reissued and remastered (and supplemented by comprehensive liner notes by Arthur Levy), but it’s still been over 20 years since the publication of Baez’s autobiography, And A Voice To Sing With, and that book is no longer widely available.

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june tabor: live at queen elizabeth hall 18/09/09
September 22, 2009, 2:24 pm
Filed under: live, review | Tags: , , ,

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June Tabor
Topic 70 @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, London ••••
September 18, 2009

Though she keeps up a fairly consistent touring schedule these days, a London appearance by June Tabor has become a rarity and, therefore, something to be treasured. Having been performing live for over 30 years now, she remains a thoroughly commanding, singular stage presence and was the ideal choice to bring the 70th anniversary celebrations of Topic Records to a close. As is often the case with Tabor, tonight’s show was organised thematically, in this case focusing on songs reflecting upon the relationship of the British people to the sea. The selection of material was solid and in some cases surprising, including many songs that Tabor has not yet recorded, encompassing the dolorous and the humorous, the intimate and the epic, the ancient and the contemporary. Surrounded by a superlative quartet of her regular musicians – Huw Warren on piano, Mark Emerson on violin/viola, Andy Cutting on accordion and Tim Harries on double bass – she supplemented the songs with instrumentals and a couple of poems and prose pieces, all thoughtfully and elegantly sequenced.

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christina courtin: christina courtin (2009)
August 12, 2009, 8:31 am
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , ,

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Christina Courtin
Christina Courtin •••½
Nonesuch

Christina Courtin’s label-debut album throws the listener some unexpected curves. Touted as a purveyor of light country-tinged jazz, in the Norah Jones mould, Courtin proves herself to be a more idiosyncratic and experimental artist than that flawed comparison suggests. This is an engaging, pleasingly confounding collection of songs, the most memorable of which turn out to be somewhat closer in spirit to Joanna Newsom than Norah Jones. An alumna of Juilliard, where she studied the violin, Courtin’s previous collaborators have been a diverse bunch, including Yo-Yo Ma, Teddy Thompson, Ryan Adams, Dawn Upshaw and Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. While none of those big names turn up here, Courtin has nonetheless surrounded herself with a dependable cast of musicians, including drummer Jim Keltner, keyboardist Benmont Tench, guitarist Marc Ribot, pedal steel supremo Greg Leisz, Punch Brothers violinist Gabe Witcher and the venerable Jon Brion.

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diane birch: bible belt (2009)
August 5, 2009, 9:11 am
Filed under: album, mp3, review, video | Tags: , , ,

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Diane Birch
Bible Belt •••½
S-Curve 

The fact that Diane Birch’s debut album conjures the sprit of 1960s/70s soul and singer-songwriter pop – LaBelle-era Laura Nyro, Carole King, Karen Carpenter, Dusty Springfield, even Elton John – might not make the record seem like the most attractive prospect to potential listeners. After all, another album in thrall to all things retro would seem to be just about the last thing the world needs right now. But, with Bible Belt, Birch – a Michigan-born preacher’s daughter who spent her childhood in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia – delivers a likeable, well-crafted and surprisingly fresh-sounding record that’s strong enough to overcome most of one’s reservations.

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