(ALMOST) ACOUSTIC AUTUMN: Call it trending, or simply a happy accident, but this Tuesday’s Fleet Foxes show at the Santa Barbara Bowl seems to have ushered in a large—and undeniably strong—preponderance of folk-minded live sets. In the coming months, S.B.’s nightlife turns into a veritable hotbed of rising and long-arrived indie and alt-folk acts, including the genre’s modern-day wunderkind Bright Eyes—and Philly-born opener Kurt Vile—at the S.B. Bowl on September 25. Also on board for the fall are NPR darlings Blind Pilot (at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on September 30) former Damien Rice cohort Lisa Hannigan (at SOhO on October 1), soft-spoken singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato (at Velvet Jones on October 7), the indie-folk one-two punch of Blitzen Trapper and Dawes (at SOhO on October 8), the genre’s reigning queen, Jenny Lewis (at the Presidio Chapel on October 18), and quirky L.A. collective He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister (at SOhO on October 26).
This week, though, I’ll be trend-spotting at Muddy Waters Café, where Tim Easton and Jonny Corndawg co-headline a night of in-your-face folk rock. While Corndawg delivered a delightful (and uproarious) stripped-down set during an April stop in town (opening for Middle Brother at SOhO, specifically), it’s Easton whom I’ve got my ears on. The Joshua Tree-dwelling folky is a fan of big instrumentation, and his backing band for this tour is well equipped to bring his grand-scale recordings to life. Lineup-wise, Easton’s managed to score guitarist/pianist Aaron Lee Tasjan (Madison Square Gardeners), drummer Mark Stepro (Ben Kweller), and bassist Alex Livingston (Grand Champeen) for the trip.
In addition, Easton’s vocal prowess is something that stands to be (even more) resonating in the live setting. His is a crisp and slightly gravelly rasp, calling to mind The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel—who in turn calls to mind the holy trinity of Americana greats: Petty, Springsteen, and Dylan. Lyrically, all the good-ole-country-boy fodder is in place, too; stories of traveling, love, and religion run rampant in Easton’s back catalog, but they rarely veer into derivative territory. In short, his is a voice well suited for dusty harmonica-tinged songs about heartbreak and pain. And while he may not be rewriting the book, he’s certainly capable of coloring outside the lines.
Tim Easton and Jonny Corndawg play Muddy Waters Café (508 E. Haley St.) on Monday, September 19, at 8 p.m. Call 966-9328 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets.
KEEP AUSTIN SULTRY: Also this week, Texan Lex Land hits the Mud for a show in support of her latest, Were My Sweetheart to Go. If you’ve got a soft spot for vocal powerhouses, Land’s show is one worth catching. Blessed with a supple range and seemingly effortless ability to hit the high (and low) notes, Land has already been dubbed “one to watch” by the folks at KCRW. But it’s not just her vocal leaps that set her apart. On tracks like “Easy,” the songstress embodies the sultry spirit of Etta James, while numbers like “As Much As You Lead” sound like Fiona Apple at her most convincingly wounded. Elsewhere, there are soulful bits that pull from the Adele/Amy Winehouse school of thought, and poppy offerings that can look and sound like A Fine Frenzy (hear “Oh My!” for a taste).
And while the whole thing can come off feeling a bit disjointed at times, Land’s deliveries and talent manage to make up for even the biggest stylistic leaps. Add to that a sweet face and some serious piano chops, and you’ve got the makings for a great night of music.
New Noise presents Lex Land with Gavin Castleton and S.B.’s own Little Indian on Friday, September 16, at 8 p.m. Visit newnoisesb.com for tickets.