We made it. I made it. Winter could not take us.
I want to both berate nature for having inflicted all those cold, hellish months on me and thank it profusely for having whisked them away with chirping birds and blooming iris’ and sunshine. This is the conundrum of the Midwest clime and it is one that baffles me every damn year, despite 30 of them here. Here, when it turns cold, you grit your goddamn teeth and steal yourself against the wind and you pray it’s one of those seasons that ends sooner than the Farmer’s Almanac says it will. You promise things you cannot give to the Gods in exchange for a single blade of green grass and you convince yourself that last year’s winter taught you to survive this. The last 30 winter’s taught you to survive this.
For some reason, this winter was rougher to weather. It was not the worst I’ve seen and yet for some reason, it felt as if any day now I would just wither into steam.
While the Midwest might be the greatest of assholes for punishing the innocent with its wintertide grip, it is also a kind of savior for rescuing us with spring. It makes that first warm light seem so much greater than it probably is. To call it an awakening is restrained.
I’m so goddamn glad winter finally heeded my calls to fuck off. Here’s a mixtape to commemorate that.
Langhorne Slim & The Law :: Summertime [mp3]
Seems like we waited for a thousand years…
Hayden :: Blurry Nights [mp3]
So, let’s just be honest: This jam doesn’t necessary fit the mood of this here tape. However, I am right obsessed with Hayden and as such, will include one of his jams on every tape I make until that obsession subsides. Deal with it.
Willy Mason :: I Got Gold [mp3]
Yeah, still obsessed with Willy Mason. It’s probably a certifiable mental health issue at this point.
Branches :: I Believe In A Thing Called Love [mp3]
If you think that Branches doesn’t win the covers game, you’re a dolt. If you aren’t as in love with the man singing here, Tyler, then you can I cannot be friends.
Wake Owl :: Wild Country (Live at Daytrotter) [mp3]
This song has soundtracked every hard thing I’ve endured for the past year. Turns out, the live version is just as stellar as the album version but in such a different way. It’s muted and the swells of the original are corked with calm. The song and it’s lyrics (which can easily stand next to some of the best ever written, I SHIT YOU NOT) are both nearly overshadowed and bolstered by the weeping violin. The original is an all seasons song; this version was made just for spring and the awakening that comes along with it.
Smooth Hound Smith :: California Sway [stream]
Hollis Brown :: Nightfall [mp3]
If you’re not gonna include a Black Crowes or Tom Petty song on your mixtape, you might as well include one by a band that sounds like the lovechild of the two.
Cayucas :: East Coast Girl [mp3]
If this song was released more than a week ago I’m gonna be really pissed because I could have been using it to usher in the sun. This jam feels like when you’re in your kitchen at 9 am in the morning trying to finish that last batch of jello shots as quickly as you can before you get on a boat on the lake.
The Hollering Pines :: Carla Cain [mp3]
Let’s slow it down right quick how about. I cannot place what it is about this song that feels like my home. Is it the name Carla, which is also the moniker of a woman I can see playing this in her kitchen while she fries chicken for Sunday’s family dinner? Is it that guitar, carrying on as if it were raised in a barn? Is it the words: Momma said what’s done is done?
I can not say but there need not be an explanation for this kind of love. Over the past two weeks I have turned this song up to maximum volume and sang my country guts out on at least 49 separate occasions. That’s some praise right there…
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Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit :: TVA [mp3]
I did not grow up 2 hours north of Birmingham and I have not ever fished next to Wilson Dam. But all that doesn’t mean I cannot attach myself to this song.
If you grew up in the Midwest and you’re looking for a song that will take you home, here it is.
The Avett Brothers :: Hammer Down (Jason Molina cover) [mp3]
Because there will always be an Avetts’ song on every mixtape I ever make. Because this one happens to be a Jason Molina cover. Because I saw the light is a lyric that perfectly describes what happens when Spring arrives.
Whetherman :: Why Pretend [mp3]
To say that Whetherman’s Streams and Pastures has overtaken my ears and hearts is a vast understatement. I was driving the other day, the varied songs playing over the speakers and so very positively influencing my mood, and thinking that there should be a piece here about how glorious easy listening albums are. Not easy listening as in your mom’s favorite Richard Marx jams; easy listening as in albums that cover great and excessive stretches of ground in just 12 songs but manage to hold your attention entirely. Last year’s self-titled album from Denver did that for me and thus far this year, Whetherman’s jams have perfectly fit that bill. I’d like to say something really elegant and nuanced about this album because it deserves it but I can’t. I just love it. I love it real hard.
The Cave Singers :: Shine [mp3]
I fucking love The Cave Singers. That is all.
The music of Keith Whitley is a certain sort of sacred here in the Midwest. Like John Denver and Bob Seger and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. You don’t touch it, you don’t cover it, you don’t shit talk it.
That said, I like this. I don’t know how my mother, who still cries when she hears a Whitley song, would feel about it but this ain’t her blog so fuck it.
Edward Herda :: Western Room [mp3]
This song is perfect. That kick drum slays my heart.
Quiet Hounds :: I Get Up [mp3]
Here’s a jaunty little jam that reeks of summer because jaunty little jams that reek of summer are wonderful.
Jason Eady & The Wayward Apostles :: Wild-Eyed Serenade [mp3]
What, y’all thought I wouldn’t include a country jam?
Paper Bird :: As I Am [mp3]
The whole of Paper Bird’s latest album is a true delight. You should probably just go ahead and get that into your life.
Shakey Graves :: Late July [mp3]
And here, a special treat to top it all off. Shakey played our house last summer. Ryan taped the whole thing because Ryan is a God among mere men and the result is a disc called Live at Folk Hive. The thing’s got a beautiful cover, complete with a photo courtesy of the ever-awesome Jarred. On the back it lists my tiny town’s name.
Let this be a lesson to all: Old porches have great acoustics. At the end of the album it is fully night and everyone is covered in sweat and the cicadas are so incredibly loud that they almost drown out the music. It was perfect. That is Missouri. That is Folk Hive.
There is no better reminder that summer exists and is a thing that is coming to fix your life all up than a jam from an album that was recorded live on your street in your tiny town of 1200. You should all get one of those, I say. One of the greatest antidepressants ever concocted.
And with that, a jam from the last house show we hosted last summer, we usher in the warmth. Here’s to so many more of those shows and summers, too…