October Albums

Valerie JuneNew releases and local performances for Fall.

by John D


Normally I start off each column with a description of a new album. It’s usually an album that I’ve been listening to and I hope to convince you to listen to it, too. Hopefully I am cutting through that glut of information instead of adding to it. Instead of talking about one album, I will list several albums being released in October. Sir Paul McCartney is 70 and still going strong—He has a new album, New (10/15), to prove he is still one of the best. Pearl Jam has passed through the magic 20-year barrier as a band and is returning to their harder-edged sound that they had when they debuted their first album, Ten, with a new album titled Lightning Bolt (10/15). Comparative newcomers and folk pop group The Head and the Heart will release their sophomore effort, Let’s Be Still (10/15). If this album is half as good as their debut, it is going to be a great album. Indie psychedelic rockers Dr. Dog will be releasing B-Room (10/1), so it will already be out when you read this. The album is the first in their own studio, is the most collaborative effort by the whole band, and if it holds true to the Dr. Dog formula, will be another direction the band has not explored yet. That is just four new albums; my original list was over 20 albums that I felt should be discussed.

With as many new releases as there are in October, Birmingham has even more great acts coming to town in the same time frame. Let’s dig in and see just the tip of the live music iceberg.

WorkPlay is booked almost solid for the month of October and there are stretches where a music lover should just bring a cot and stay there. Escondido, originally a 2-piece that recorded their 10-song debut in one day, has fleshed out a whole band and filled out their “desert landscape mixed with Americana” (their words, not mine, but the description does work) sound will hit Workplay on 10/16. The very next night (10/17), Holly Williams takes over with her wistful, country-tinged, singer-songwriter style. Williams, granddaughter of Hank Williams Sr., has the pedigree and, with the reviews the new album is getting, she has the skill. She will be bringing Rayland Baxter down from Nashville as her opening act, and his catchy tunes will definitely set the tone for the night. Patty Griffin (10/19) needs no description. Her album American Kid that’s just a few months old is fantastic, and by the time Griffin takes the stage, she will have released a “lost album” from the late 90s. I mention this show just in case you had not heard and want to get tickets before they sell out.

Iron City had a solid September (Black Crowes, Jim James, Edward Sharpe) with several sold-out shows, and they are still trying to prove they are not a flash in the pan with their October bookings. English rockers The Arctic Monkeys just released a new album, AM, and will be stopping by on 10/9. The following week, Iron City welcomes singer-songwriter Ben Rector (10/16) to  Birmingham. Rector, at 27, is at the beginning of what looks to be a very promising career and, for listeners, a very enjoyable one as a performer.

The Bottletree is one of Birmingham’s smaller venues, so great shows sell out quick. It is also the kind of place to catch artists who are on the rise. On of these up-and-comers is Valerie June (10/9). June has been described as a female version of the Black Keys. It is an apt description, albeit simple, because June’s voice is much more textured and nuanced. She just released her debut album Pushin’ Against A Stone, and odds are you won’t have another chance to see her in such an intimate setting. An added bonus is Florence, AL-based The Bear as an opening act. Langhorne Slim and the Law bring their hook-heavy Americana/pop sound to town with special guest Johnny Fritz. Fritz’s music moves from bawdy, to humorous, even to dark, and shows off his adept skill at making the correct turn of phrase when it comes to songwriting.

The one and only Willie Nelson (with Merle Haggard) stops by the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater on 10/24. Nelson still tours heavily, but at 80 years old, he is going to have to start to slow down soon. You don’t want to miss your chance to catch him before that happens.

Just like the soon-to-be-released albums mentioned, these are just a few of the great shows coming to Birmingham in October. For a more comprehensive concert calendar, check out the Birmingham Mountain Radio concert calendar (bhammountainradio.com).

Upcoming shows:

Washed Out 11/6 Iron City: Ernest Greene started out making music in his bedroom and expanded to a full band. Call it chill wave or shoe gaze, it is still going to be a great show.

Birdsmell 11/11 Bottletree: Band of Horses front man Ben Bridwell goes solo as the rest of the band takes a break from the road. Bridwell does not even know what he will play yet, but he promises it to be good!

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