Over the years, I’ve had to become practically belligerent in justifying why I call certain records folk records. If not to others, at least to myself. By all accounts, this record is equal parts homemade noise, acoustitronic, indie pop, and due to a heavy presence of sitar, it even might fall into that ever-ambiguous, usually irrelevant “world” genre. Which makes it a folk record, if you ask me. Woods teams up with Henry Barnes, a noise forefather of sorts, currently creating as Amps for Christ but formerly a part of Bastard Noise. Barnes’ tracks range from the brilliantly technologized to the sublimely ethereal, songs that are less centered on melodies or structure than they are on the sound of the instruments being played. “Roto Koto in C Major” begins as a pretty traditional East-meets-West vamp and hums along for a while, but somewhere around 3:55 heads starting turning into thousands of heads, the river picks up its current and we’re washed over the edge of this reality into that of Woods. Which is a pretty chill place. “Sleeper,” while a kindred spirit to the sing-along folk pop of their last two records, is decidedly more acoustic, more dream-affected. I imagine Jeremy Earl and friends isolating, chopping and screwing the Victor Herrero Band’s percussion tracks before writing this song. “From Oatmeal to Buttermilk” is the only Woods and AFC collaboration here, and in the omniscient, omnipresent sense of the word, it’s simply divine. The other Woods tracks are painfully accessible and singable, while “September Saturn” closes out the record with a traditional Woods one-chord, one bassline, 9-minute long vamp. Also, “Lore Bateman” is a Child Ballad, number 53. Traditional, see?
I’ve been waiting for a Ralph White blues album since I first heard his fiddle scratch, and here she is. KVRX was trying to book a blues show once, sorta fell through, and I asked Ralph if he could work up an appropriate set. “Sure, the blues is everywhere.” Here’s the proof. The record kicks off with a characteristically surreal version of Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty”, a traveler’s blues, light of the moon, leaving the cities and picking the proverbial fruit. Ralph then fiddles, kalimbas, guitars and banjos his way to a wormhole and takes us through it, back to the land of scorched Stratocasters, Chess Records and beyond, stabbing at Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful”, Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child”, and Lighthin’ Hopkins’ (or any number of other bluesmen’s) “Blues in the Bottle.” Ralph pulls the heart right out of these songs, sets it before you still beating as if some ritual, some primitive transmission of the songs’ birthplaces. All of these songs are (as usual) complete gems of restyled and reinvented folk song, but the Daddy Stovepipe-penned track “Stove Pipe Blues” really digs into the essence of this record. One can’t help but be reminded of Ralph himself in Stovepipe’s story, an Alabama-to-Mexico transplant who played in Mariachis early on, toured with minstrel shows, bussed around Chicago as a one-man band, and dabbled with Cajun music in Texas. Recommended for times when sounds are jigsaw puzzles, or always.