(this piece was published by Planet Jackson Hole)
Now that the dust has settled into the New Year, let’s take a snapshot of local album releases over the last twelve months. It’s worth noting that nine albums, predominantly featuring original music, is quite a progression for Jackson, for our local music community. Half of these bands released debut albums, which is a good sign for what’s to come. It was also reported via Wyoming Public Radio that 2015 was a record year for Wyoming-based album releases.
Here’s a breakdown predominantly Jackson-based regional independent releases, most of which are available via iTunes and streaming services, though I recommend visiting each band’s website to see if they sell directly from the source (which puts more money in the artist’s pocket).
Written, arranged and recorded in “various houses and apartments,” this ten-track debut album of original material is split between instrumental dashes and lyrical experiences via a gruff-voiced Mike Swanson. Standout track: “Tony’s Blues.”
Canyon Kids “Best Loved Poems of the American People.” Genre: indie folk, rock, Wyomericana. This eleven-month sophomore project was tracked at Teton Artlab with the help of a grant from CSA Jackson Hole. Utilizing only four microphones, a modest recording setup, and many characters from the Jackson music scene, the album concept involved interpreting American poems by composing music to complement the words. Standout track: “Out Where The West Begins.”
Wyatt Lowe “Songs from a Bottomless Well.” Genre: rockabilly, blues. Eighteen-year-old Lowe wrote seven of the eleven tracks on this debut, with classic rockabilly (“Hot Rod Lincoln”) to straight-up Stratocaster-wailing, and Jimmy Vaughn-esque blues (“Howlin’”). Choice dark threads, wayfarer shades, and slicked back hair, Lowe is a singer-songwriter that has the look of a twenty-something Johnny Cash, and the goods of a seasoned bandleader. Standout track: “Meet You in Heaven.”
One Ton Pig “Lastville.” Genre: jamgrass, folk, Americana. Voted #3 on Wyoming Public Radio’s Best Wyoming/Regional Releases of 2015, this is the band’s fourth release and second studio album. A mostly high-tempo set, this is the first album as a sextet with fiddler Matt Herron, and the instrumental play is their best yet. Standout track: “Two to Get on Stage.”
Michael G. Batdorf “Beyond the Mask.” Genre: singer-songwriter, folk-rock, bluegrass. Primary songwriter for One Ton Pig, Batdorf’s solo releases sometimes get overshadowed by the latter, yet stand their ground with minimal instrumentation that puts a greater emphasis on the lyrics, the story. This, his seventh release, is another interesting chapter in his personal book of songs that continues to raise the bar, set by Batdorf himself. Standout track: “Personal Skies.”
Peter Chandler “Chanman Solo.” Genre: reggae, ski bum music, jazz. Songs of love, justice and mountain town living define Chandler’s easy-going bliss. His previous couples of solo albums—”Perfect Thirst” and “Gotta Take Some Turns”—were released under the Chanman moniker and had multiple guests. With the use of his given name also comes a songwriter and singer that has come into his own, a pioneer of the ski bum music genre, blending reggae and jazz with no frills here—just a guitar, harmonica and voice. Standout track: “That’s a Lot of Girls.”
Mike Dowling “Tracks.” Genre: old blues, swing. A Grammy-winning guitarist, Dowling is a diamond in the rugged ruralness of Dubois. Rootsy, soulful vocals mixed with instrumentals, here’s eleven tracks of beautifully played solo tunes on resonator guitars. Standout track: “Tennessee Blues.”
Jason Tyler Burton “The Ballad of Sally Moore” EP. Genre: folk. A Kentucky-born Pinedale resident, Burton is a multi-instrumentalist nomad with a quietly compelling vocal delivery. Released last month, this three-song set that all tell the same tale, but from different points of view. This is a follow up to 2014’s “Headwaters,” which appeared on a handful of best-of lists. Standout track: “Part 2 – All the Whiskey in the World.”
Screen Door Porch “Modern Settler.” Genre: country-blues, roots-rock, Wyomericana. Voted #1 on Wyoming Public Radio’s Best Wyoming/Regional Releases of 2015. Note: Yours Truly is in this band, so here’s what Pop Matters had to say: “Modern Settler, their third, is a strong record that runs the roots-rock gamut, from the bright rock of “Wicked Ways” to the swampy acoustic blues of “Chasin’ Homesteader Blues” to the ‘70s soul cover of Bobby Charles’ “Street People”, complete with horn section.” Standout track: “Poor Elijah/Tribute to Johnson.”
Rock on and support your local musicians!