CD Shorts

Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie “Prince” Billy

What the Brothers Sang

(Drag City)

A collaboration between Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables and singer-songwriter Bonnie “Prince” Billy, What the Brothers Sang combines folk and country with some elements of rock. Some songs are upbeat, others slow, but what runs through them all is a relaxing softness. McCarthy and Billy perform well together, singing solo and in duet. Instruments like the tambourine show up every now and again, but the sounds that provide the heart of What the Brothers Sang are vocals and guitar. The lyrics tend to be about love, life, and relationships, well-worn subjects of lyrics everywhere, but paired here with a mix of musical influences that keeps the words and meaning engaging. —Patrick Kelley


Golden Bloom

No Day Like Today

(The Sleepy West)

Perhaps even more than on their previous releases—2009’s Fan the Flames and 2011’s March to the Drums EP—Golden Bloom’s primary creative force, Shawn Fogel, sounds like a sensitive guy. There’s a bit less power in the band’s traditional power pop, though the tracks do pick up as they go along, and that’s a good thing. Later tracks “Shadow of Man” and “White Whale” bring it back to what was initially attractive about the material—solid pop-rock with great melodies. That’s not to say that the quiet stuff is bad—there are shades of The Decemberists in it, and fans of groups like Ben Folds Five will appreciate the dual nature of this muse’s expression. In any case, Fogel is a pretty safe bet to produce something pleasing that’s worth listening to, even if it’s only five songs.—Tom Sturm


Catherine Irwin

Little Heater

(Thrill Jockey)

Best known as one half of alt-country mainstay Freakwater, Irwin sticks to the basics on her second solo album. This means acoustic country polished with washes of pedal steel, and vocals from an assortment of friends and cohorts. Bonnie “Prince” Billy, members of the indie rock group Ida, and even record producer Tara Jane O’Neill join the action in duets or add harmonies, but it’s always Irwin’s show. “Sinner Saves a Saint,” written by late cartoonist John Callahan, is a highlight that retains much of the artist’s trademark humor amidst a simple chord progression. Elsewhere, “Piss To Gin” incorporates banjo and screeching fiddle to create an authentic-sounding Southern classic. And with “The Banks of the Ohio,” Irwin provides her own take on the old 19th-century murder ballad. It’s a solid rendition, and one that listeners will find themselves singing along to, regardless of the subject matter. —Michael Cimaomo

Author: Advocate Staff

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