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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Jason Wells, Glen Hansard, Joan Baez, Calexico and introducing Lighthouse Keepers

Among the many indie artists we play, Jason Wells may be one of the least trendy - a dedicated practitioner of old-school, electric-guitar-driven, blues-influenced rock. Based in central Indiana, he and his band tour steadily around the U.S. Midwest. His latest album, Nine Hours - which he describes as "raw rock-n-roll mojo" - is set for release later this month, and we'll be playing several tracks. We're starting by featuring "Waiting To Come Down" in our New Music bin. The interplay of guitar and keyboards actually reminds us a bit of vintage Traffic. Jason says it's one of his favorite tracks on the record - "Love the jammy stuff we captured." Jam on, brother.

Another artist rooted in traditional sounds, leaning more toward folk-rock, is Ireland's Glen Hansard. His latest release, Between Two Shores, was created in two sessions almost four years apart. While on tour in 2013, he and his band stopped at Wilco's Chicago studios and laid down more than a dozen tracks. But it was only last year that he revisited those recordings. "I heard how great the band sounded," he told Rolling Stone. "I thought, 'These tunes are good! These tunes are worthy!'" But he wasn't happy with the lyrics, so he rewrote the songs and recorded new vocals. The result is getting a lot of attention, and we're joining in by adding "Roll On Slow" to our New Music playlist.

Sailing farther toward the folk end of the spectrum, we find ourselves guided to the Boston area by Lighthouse Keepers. This group formed while most of its members were students at Harvard University. We came upon them via Noisetrade, which tells us: "It began with three students in a dorm room, with a violin, a guitar, a ukulele, and three voices; they started by playing around with various covers as well as free-styling collaboratively." They've since added three members and just released a full album of well-crafted original music. Every track is strong, making it hard to pick one to feature, so we'll just start with the first: "Sense Of Me."

Amid the current folk-rock revival comes a new album from one of the leaders of the 1960s folk-rock movement: Joan Baez. Whistle Down the Wind is her first studio album in ten years. On it, she covers an array of contemporary songwriters, including Josh Ritter, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Eliza Gilkyson. Fitting with Baez's history of commitment to social causes, the album has a theme that NPR Music described as "defiant optimism" in the face of global discord. Our featured pick is Giklyson's apocalyptic-yet-hopeful "The Great Correction."

For another take on current events, we return to the most recent release from Calexico, The Thread that Keeps Us. On "Under the Wheels," over an urgent Latin-meets-reggae rhythm, Joey Burns sings of trying to find hope in one another: "Under the wheels of the war machine / Always someone else's scheme / Show me a sign / When the world falls apart / From the core to the seams / The threads that we seek."

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