Aaron Ross

Beginning with his debut album, On the Hallelujah Side, Ross displayed a facility for Americana-based musical forms and rambling lyrics that tend toward double-entendre and allegory. The apocalyptic wit of Bob Dylan and biblical gravity of William Faulkner are equally valid lyrical touchstones. When he sings the song "Jack Kerouac" from the 2006 album Beginner's Blood, it's easy to see how the writer's concept of "free prose" influenced Ross' freewheeling lyrics. While his early work was inspired by dark, redemptive tales like the film There Will Be Blood, his 2008 album Shapeshifter revealed a lighter side of his personality. Entering his late 20s and discovering the peace of raising a family, Ross felt the drive to project more positive imagery. "Once you reach 25 and you're still alive, you're not as angst-ridden," he says of the time. This newfound levity gave him the leeway to experiment with different lyrical and musical forms as well.

While much of Ross' music focuses on the mythical America with it's broken dreams, bucolic family moments and unprecedented military power, there is a sly thread of humor running through his work that's often underestimated. Song titles like "The Beast Of Both Worlds," "Enemy Of The State Of Mind" and "In Through The Out Of Order Door" hint at a playfulness that's often lacking among modern songwriters. With a poet's penchant for wordplay and a wide-eyed attitude toward music production, Aaron Ross has earned his place as one of Nevada County's most gifted musicians and songwriters

Mariee Sioux

Following the release of her collaborative Bonnie & Mariee EP with Bonnie Prince Billy, Northern California's Mariee Sioux released her sophomore full-lengh Gift for the End. Recorded in the summer of 2011 at Placerville's Moonsoon Studios and Nevada City's Sun Dial studios, the new song-cycle breathes as easily and resonates as warmly as 2007's Faces in the Rocks but brims with audible shifts in ambiance and perspective. Impressionistic narratives are underscored by thatchwork guitar patterns that showcase Mariee's voice, an unadorned, naked instrument that rings clear and high above airy atmospherics and mellow percussion. Gift for the End is dream logic at play: a fluid procession of personal and natural imagery that moves from place to place and symbol to symbol but ultimately never loses its cohesive dimensions or emotional shape.

Lonesome Leash

Walt McClements is the multi-instrumentalist leader of New Orleanspunk orchestra Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?; he's also a member of New Orleans's Panorama Jazz Band, and on top of that he's a collaborator and touring member of Dark Dark Dark. He is a very, very busy young man. And yet, with all that on his plate, there is "I Am No Captain," the starkly beautiful debut album from Lonesome Leash, an immaculately disheveled affair that finds him channeling all of his musical projects into a lean, mean and gorgeously messy one-man affair.

Originally from Durham, North Carolina, McClements settled in New Orleans in 2004, twenty-years old and fresh from wanderings that found him crisscrossing the States and dipping down into Mexico. In New Orleans he found common cause with the burgeoning culture of kids fanatical about playing traditional American music like country and jazz, but who also were relentlessly experimental and open, throwing in touches of Gypsy swing, Balkan brass, and other disparate inspirations to create a unique local musical hybrid.

Anchored by the sinuous accordion sound that's become a McClements trademark, Lonesome Leash takes some mad aesthetic stabs, incorporating drum loops, piercing feedback and brass flourishes, in the end creating a sort of future-rustic musical aesthetic.

McClements explains it like this: "I'd always been interested in affecting the accordion to make it sound more like a synthesizer, and more than a synthesizer, as well as including drum machines and electronics into what normally would -- or could be -- very traditional sounding textures."

Lonesome Leash trades in the sort of heavy-breathing ecstatic joy and fatalistic romanticism that pervades New Orleans, but translates to any location and into any language. Songs like "Fade Away" encapsulate that feeling you get when you and a friend are rolling cigarettes together on a porch as the sun dips below the horizon, and you can feel stray bits of tobacco on your lips and everything seems, just for a moment, like it's going to be all right. But it's also music for a new wave dance party in a falling-down shotgun house ("Pelican"), and it can be recognized by anybody who's ever had a mad romance followed by having their heart shattered into a thousand pieces, as heard on the epic album-closer "Ghosts." Lonesome Leash is music for the lonely ones; for the triumphant and the nervous; it's the soundtrack to the lives of the mad and magnificent everyone.



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