A good record leaves you feeling fatigued, deeply touched by the emotion that transfers through in each track, and Ruby Red does that with each rung of the album, climbing down from anger to resolution with grace. For a long time, there’s been an accepted idea of how women lament heartache, with exaggerated longing, attachment and jealousy. Often coined “needy” or “crazy” there’s a strong push for women to act unaffected by pain to avoid such social branding. Santo takes ownership and power back with crass and candor, introducing shameless, self aware dialogue that opens the door for conversation that leads to real healing.
Not since Aaron Dessner joined forces with The Red Hot Organization and released Dark Was The Night, in 2009, has a charity record been as relevant and crafted as Brandi Carlile’s latest project, Cover Stories.
The three albums released by Nashville singer-songwriter Andrew Combs so far read like his personal journal. The youngest chapter, Worried Man, is stripped down and vulnerable, leaden with introspection and poetic pleading. All These Dreams was a slow shift outside his own heartache, introducing variations in tone and pop sensibility.
[Editor’s Note: This piece is part of an ongoing series of personal essays on what it’s like to live with a mental health diagnosis. Each piece describes a singular and unique experience. These essays are not meant to be representative of every diagnosis, but to give us a peek into one person’s mind so we may be more empathetic to all.]
Long before Bro-Country urged ladies to save horses and ride cowboys, before the recent surge in thought pieces surrounding feminism in a male dominated field, women in country music were rolling their eyes at the genre’s rodeo seats and recording anthems by women for women. This spring, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Martina McBride are set to release new records; two country music all stars that reigned during a decade of underrated feminist prowess. While the airways have always been saturated with machismo, the women of the ‘90s country class recorded countless mantras that proved not all damsels are in distress.
Butch Walker isn’t a causal interest.
He’s the kind of artist people fall hard for. His fans have grown with him for decades, like the mural of tattoos that continue to paint his skin, and they’ve stayed the test of time like the tiny bits of silver in his hair that he doesn’t work to disguise. They are ‘90s pop punk fans, they are fans of his Americana records, they are 50 and they are 14, but when they signed on they signed on for life.
We ask a lot from musicians; as an audience we expect constantly progressive, evolving mechanics and intrusive intimacy. For years now Deer Tick has been feeding us foreplay; the famed grime and grit of alternative rock n’ roll, the seduction, only hinting at the hangover with shameless self deprecation. Their latest record, Negativity, is the post coitus cuddle, the private space we don’t necessarily deserve, but so aggressively demand.
“This next song is called ‘I Wish I Was Sober’,” Scott Hutchison told a packed crowd at Rough Trade in New York several weeks ago, introducing a new song from Frightened Rabbit’s fifth full length record, Painting of a Panic Attack. Amused, grinning with teeth under auburn scruff and a sweaty glaze, he laughed and followed it up with, “Oh come on, you’re at a Frightened Rabbit concert, if you want to feel good about yourself go see the 1975.”
The Irish folk veteran doesn’t shy from heartache, he sings about it with excruciating grace. In 2007, he starred in Once alongside Marketa Irglova, a film about two musicians falling in love, an onscreen romance that won the two an Oscar and birthed a love beyond the big screen. And in 2011, his earnest bravery delivered The Swell Season documentary, detailing the painful dissolution of the famed lovers. He writes beautiful homages to love, and equally ornate eulogies to it, but this record feels less about heartache and more about introspection, patriotism, encouragement and healing—and it works.
When aspiring musicians dream of their “big break,” their idealistic thought clouds probably don’t include the work that comes after. After nurturing a 10-year career with the Fruit Bats, and releasing his fifth full-length record in August, Eric D. Johnson isn’t waking up each day from some vodka-induced coma. He’s appreciating the mellow mornings that come from the long days and hours spent sustaining a career in music, just like any other working man.