Dave Alvin – Eleven Eleven

Roots-rock artist Dave Alvin releases a grooving blues number for us with Eleven Eleven. Tapping into that rural-blues sound makes it a perfect listener for the backyard or in the truck blowing down our prairie roads. Alvin, a California native, has a long career of blues and roots music, all of which culminates in this release. For a roots-rock album, it does come off slightly polished on the production side, but this is made up for in the musicianship. Gritty guitar licks laced throughout and some deep soulful vocals get you moving. Timing is perfect as Alvin brings you down to the mellow side midway through, while keeping in touch with that rural vibe, and finishes off the album with “Two Lucky Bums” – a duet with Chris Gaffney – that livens your mood just in time to send you packing. Inside and out, it’s a respectable release. Dave Alvin looks exactly how he sounds and that’s how it should be. Good honest blues, and there’s no lack of it here. (Yep Rock, yeproc.com/)Dallas Kitchen for Stylus Magazine

Bog River – Hands in the Ground

It’s probably your best bet to take your hands out of the ground and get them on this album. Hands in the Ground is the first full-length release from local trio Bog River. Comprised of Carly Dow, Ben Hadaller and Dave Barchyn, the band released Lost in the Woods in 2010, a rough yet valiant five part EP recorded at Hadaller’s cabin in one day. The EP was a glimpse into the promise possesses – a passion that drives the three of them to work intensely together on a fokly sound that is not only unique but tight and arousing. This time around, the band is doing it right, having recorded this album over the course of a couple weekends while still choosing to record back at the cabin. They dabble in a wide variety of genres and instruments, from pure folk, to Dixieland and gospel on this album. James McKee of the F-Holes makes a trumpet and trombone contribution on tracks four and five, with Alex Campbell is at the piano on track five. Vocalist Carly Dow’s vocals on the album are raw, while Dave and Ben offer silkier alternatives. Hands in the Ground is muddy and simple contemporary folk, and delves into deep themes of family, love and roots. If you’re not already familiar with the band, stop by the WECC on October 13 to celebrate their album release party. (Independent, myspace.com/bogriver) Victoria King for Stylus Magazine

Hillbilly Highway – Back on the Nowhere Road

There is a road that stretches back in time, back beyond the interweb, beyond compact discs, cassette tapes, vinyl records and gramophones. It winds between hills and hollers, follows riverbanks and lakeshores deep into the woods and across tall grass prairie. It picks up from quays and travels back across seas, crossing itself time and again in backwater voids, where wind whips dead branches against nothing and scavenger birds craw out in vain.

This is the same road Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam sang about in the 80s, same road the Boss, and Dylan before him. Before them all, Hank Williams sang about this Lost Highway. The sands of time have largely obscured the names of those who sang about it before ol’ Hank, but their numbers are legion and their ghosts walk the road still.

This is the Lost Highway, the Thunder Road, Highway 51, Route 23. The Hillbilly Highway, the Nowhere Road. The low road. Maybe you’re walking it now, following your dreams up and down Pembina Highway or Portage Avenue, Highway One or 17.

I been on many of these roads, myself. I just cruised down a gooder: west on provincial Highway 2, with a south turn at Holland onto 34. 34 hits a stop at 3, then heads west again to 3A. Now you’re in country country.

The tiny village of Clearwater, MB has hosted the perennial Harvest Moon Festival for the past ten years. Formed as “a celebration of the harvest season, local food production, the area’s rich cultural heritage, and the bond between rural and urban folks,” the festival is like no other in Manitoba. A strong community dedicated to surviving against the economic and political forces that are draining people and money from the prairies, Clearwater is itself a beacon of potential for any community struggling to remain viable in the 21st century.

And the music is fucking good too. Highlights, for me, this year were the Deep Dark Woods, CKUW favourite Greg MacPherson and Ridley Bent’s Good Looking Country Band. Each delivered to-notch performances in weather bordering on frigid. Many other acts performed throughout the days, including Bog River and the Reverend Rambler, names to look for on the hillbilly highway in the months and years to come.

Keep your eyes on the road. It has a way of winding somewhere strange.

– Sheldon Birnie