[Cheap and Cheerful]: Cody ChesnuTT

cody-chesnutt-lo-res-press-photo-2“Know how to stay fly in the hardest times, But what we don’t know is that ain’t gonna be enough”

What’s better than discovering great music? Discovering it’s free as well. Cheap and Cheerful intermittently throws free downloads your way for continued listening pleasure that doesn’t break the bank.

Seen most recently supporting neo-soul Q.U.E.E.N. and fellow Atlantan Janelle Monae on tour, Cody ChesnuTT has also been carving out his own distinctive brand of rock ‘n’ soul in recent years. After splitting from L.A. rockers The Crosswalk in 2000, ChesnuTT set up a makeshift studio in his bedroom and sequestered himself for several months with a handful of instruments and a 4-track recorder to produce 2002’s critically acclaimed double album The Headphone Masterpiece. A genre hopping gumbo indebted to a love of rock ‘n’ roll, The Headphone Masterpiece turned a lot of heads with its prodigious musicality and lo-fi aesthetic, landing ChesnuTT on tours with Erykah Badu and The Roots. A subsequent guest slot on The Roots’s Phrenology for their cover of ChesnuTT’s ‘The Seed’, an appearance in Dave Chapelle’s Block Party and electrifying live performances only added to his growing cult status, yet ChesnuTT would not put out his second full-length album for another ten years. Following a quiet period of family life and reflection, punctuated by the release of Black Skin No Value EP in 2010, ChesnuTT returned with the smoking hot Landing On A Hundred in 2012. True to his bedroom basics roots, ChesnuTT has now chosen to make the Kickstarter funded album available for free over at Noisetrade, parcelled up with guest remixes and juicy outtakes from recording sessions at Memphis’s Royal Studios.

Like its predecessor, Landing On A Hundred covers a wide range of musical flavours and life issues, from socially conscious jams like ‘Under the Spell of the Handout’s honky-tonk funk and the gospel redemption of ‘Everybody’s Brother’, to ‘That’s Still Mama’s inner city holler and the sweet Sam Cooke-isms of ‘Love Is More Than a Wedding Day’. Meanwhile, the B-sides and remixes reveal even further scope and depth. The softly caressing lullaby of ‘Listen’ is counterpointed by country-blues stomper ‘Gunpowder On The Letter’, featuring searing leads from Gary Clark Jr., while in the hands of The Roots drummer and frontman Questlove ‘What Kind Of Cool’s shuffling beat is slowed to a soporific haze and an Eddie Hazel-worthy fuzzed-up solo leads out of the fog. Make no mistake, it’s a headphone masterpiece worth checking out

Landing On A Hundred is out now through Vibration Vineyard/One Little Indian and is available for free download here. Cody ChesnuTT is currently on a European tour, find dates here.

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[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Eric Andersen, The Smiths and Bob Marley & The Wailers.

th21-record-player-music-flickr-stacey-d-630w

Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Close The Door Lightly When You Go’ – Eric Andersen
If the mark of an artist is the company they keep then Eric Andersen can be ranked up there with the best of them, having rubbed shoulders with Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Joan Baez, The Band, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Andy Warhol and William Burroughs to name but a few. While Andersen has not shared as much of the limelight as his Greenwich Village folk scene contemporaries, his vivid songwriting about love in all its expressions has influenced and been covered by countless artists in the singer-songwriter tradition and in 2003 he was awarded the Premio Tenco for outstanding songwriting, an award previously won by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave (again, the company you keep). While later versions of ‘Close The Door Lightly When You Go’ have gathered a more upbeat pace, none of them have the same raw sense of self-loathing and loneliness as the original found on Andersen’s second album ‘Bout Changes ‘n’ Things. A documentary taking in Andersen’s ongoing fifty-plus year journey as an artist entitled The Songpoet is slated for release later this year.

‘Back To The Old House’ – The Smiths
Morrissey is set to release his tenth solo album World Peace Is None Of Your Business in July (announced by way of a tongue-in-cheek music video), and while he tends to divide opinion like Moses parts large bodies of water you’d be hard-pressed to deny the emotional weight he lends to this stripped down version of ‘Back To The Old House’ lifted from a John Peel session in 1983. Nostalgia drips from Johnny Marr’s honeyed arpeggios, complementing the forlorn quality in Morrissey’s tenor and the palpable ambivalence conveyed through understated images in lines such as “When you cycled by, here began all my dreams, the saddest thing I’ve ever seen”.

‘High Tide Or Low Tide’ – Bob Marley And The Wailers
Replete with sultry rhythms from the Barrett brothers and beautiful harmonies from Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, ‘High Tide Or Low Tide’ makes perfect listening for the nights drawing longer. It was recorded during the sessions for The Wailers’ Island debut, Catch A Fire, which would begin Bob Marley’s meteoric rise to become the Third World’s first superstar, but didn’t make the final tracklist. However, positioned alongside the social commentary of ‘Concrete Jungle’ and ‘Stop That Train’, this soulful ditty of solidarity and friendship shows the scope of Marley’s songwriting even at this early stage and it is this sense of peace and love he would infuse much of his music with throughout his career.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[Artist Spotlight]: The Rails

The-Rails-photo-1050x700“I’m a fool, no more you’ll rule my fragile, fucked up heart.”

Rising folk duo The Rails may have only been making music together for two years (initially as Dead Flamingoes) and only just released their debut album, Fair Warning, but they have a strong pedigree. Kami Thompson is the youngest scion of folk-rock royalty Richard and Linda Thompson and sister of singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson (Richard has previously joked ‘It’s a battle with the Wainwright-McGarrigles who can produce the most musical offspring!’). She has made appearances at the Wainwright Family’s Christmas shows as well as on tours with Bonnie Prince Billy and Sean Lennon before she released her solo album, Love Lies, in 2011. Meanwhile, James Walbourne’s impressively long CV as a hire guitarist touts such diverse names as Ray Davies, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Pogues, Son Volt and The Pretenders, while making his debut as a solo musician on 2011’s The Hill. In each other, though, they found the perfect musical foil, with Walbourne’s earthy bark playing off Thompson’s sweetly soaring vocals on tales of rootless vagabonds and fatal trysts.

This partnership has been a long time in the making though. The pair first met when author and music fanatic Nick Hornby gave Walbourne a call out of the blue to assist in the recording of Linda Thompson’s 2007 album Versatile Heart, on which Kami was assisting her mother. Both admit they were too wrapped up in their own projects to pay much attention to the other, and so years went by with chance meetings at odd gigs and events. It was only during the early sessions for Linda Thompson’s following album, 2013’s stunning Won’t Be Long Now, that the two started writing music together and found that they could effortlessly harmonise and trade vocals.

Recording sessions for an album naturally followed, which took place at the home studio of Edwyn Collins (who also co-produced the album) with their direct, pared down arrangements occasionally filled out by fiddle duties from Eliza Carthy and deft drumming from Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars). It was also during this period that Thompson and Walbourne forged a relationship and decided to get married. Although this means there is little to no separation between their personal and work life, in an interview with Secret Sounds Thompson said she does not see this as a problem: “You feel that you have a shared goal, I think, which maybe you wouldn’t have if you didn’t work together as much.”

Focusing on a direct and authentic English folk sound, they headed up to legendary folk archive Cecil Sharp House for inspiration and gleaned two songs which appear on Fair Warning, ‘William Taylor’ and ‘Bonnie Portmore‘. The latter was released as a lead single, for which their label, Island Records, saw it appropriate to resurrect the iconic ‘pink’ label which adorned releases from such folk luminaries as John Martyn, Nick Drake, Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson’s own Fairport Convention. While this stamp of quality might ostensibly serve to draw further comparisons to the work of Thompson’s parents, Richard and Linda (a married couple with harmonising vocals releasing folk-rock on the Island pink label), ultimately they carve out their own distinctive brand of contemporary folk with one eye cast back to traditional English lyricism, as they do on ‘Breakneck Speed’.

An upbeat modern ballad of extricating yourself from a relationship turned sour, ‘Breakneck Speed’ rolls along with the energy of Thompson’s driving acoustic rhythm and Carthy’s fiery fiddling. Thompson takes lead vocal duties while Walbourne’s electric noodling buoys the song up before joining in for those effortless harmonies in the chorus. With effusive and gloriously catchy tunes as this, The Rails are sure to be a highlight of the folk club and festival circuits they tour this summer and prove that Thompson and Walbourne make a handsome pair.

Fair Warning is available now through Island Records. If you enjoyed this article, why not check out my review of Richard Thompson’s Electric?