Frontier Ruckus

The scrawled and scratched-out lyrics on the band’s website, the quavering vocals, the images of dust and absence and longing — Frontier Ruckus is tapping into all the elements of that particular folk style wherein the songs (and singers) appear much older than their actual age. In the demos for their album The Orion Songbook — that’s not Orion like the constellation, but Orion (oree-un) like the suburban Detroit city & lake — this Michigan outfit seems to be dreaming back to the time when it took two weeks to travel from Detroit to Saginaw. Appropriately, tracks like “Orion Town 2” and “Mohawk, New York” are filled with an old-time, bare-bones aesthetic. Dig through the band’s website to find more downloadable demos.

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The Cotton Jones Basket Ride

It might take a few spins — there must be something spinning inside the computer, right? —for this debut track from The Cotton Jones Basket Ride to really work for you. Greg and I were hanging around, giving it a listen, and our first thought was to turn down the volume, for the sake of discretion. But there’s something about former Page France frontman Michael Nau’s voice that begs to be heard. In this case, it’s the refreshingly bluesy, breezy falsetto of “Had Not A Body.” He’s singing about demons in his head and fire in his throat, but you know, the song is so cool and laid back, it’s really nothing to worry about. Time will tell if the rest of his new debut, Paranoid Cocoon, will be equally tranquil; it’s due in early 2008. Until then and according to the promo people, “an individually handmade, hand-stamped, limited EP Booklet of five songs is available for purchase at all Cotton Jones shows, and via the Quite Scientific website. The booklets are hand made, hand stamped, and include a CD of four songs set to appear on the upcoming record, and one exclusive to the release.” Right on.

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Leave it to Sean in sunny California to raise awareness of a record label that’s operating practically in my backyard, even though he’s three time zones away. Canada, like the previously-posted Chris Bathgate, records for Quite Scientific, right here in Michigan. That is, Canada the seven-piece band out of Ann Arbor. If you’re looking for a bit of a late night summer folk-rock sing-along anthem, check out “Hexenhaus,” fom their 2006 LP This Cursed House.

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Chris Bathgate

With the exacting diction of Flannery O’Connor Chris Bathgate sets up a haunting scene in “Flash of Light: “There was a flash of light / followed by chaos / all the night the moon struck my backyard.” He sets up the scene again and again, each time adding different details, each time greasing our anticipation. But like a good storyteller should he never fulfills our expectations. The listener is left to fill in the details. Whichever outcome you choose is accompanied by reverberating instrumentation as feedback leaks in and additional guitars and trumpets join Bathgate’s ever forceful chords. Such crafting of songs lifts Bathgate out of the “singer/songwriter” pigeonhole. Comparisons to Will Oldham and Jeffy Tweedy do not misguide, but I would posit, based on “Every Wall You Own,” that Bathgate is also the country cousin to Eric Matthew’s smooth, orchestral pop sound.

Bathgate spends the next few months saturating his home state of Michigan (Sam, Joe I expect you’ll be making plans to attend as soon as you hear this stuff!) with his sounds. But with the exception of New York City, there are no signs yet of Bathgate making his way beyond his state borders. Looks like you’ll have to bring him home yourself. And oh! what timing! His new album “A Cork Tale Wake” is out today.

I stand corrected. I just discovered he spent the month of May in Europe with Saturday Looks Good To Me…

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