Strum und Twang 5/7/14

• There is no such thing as progress in music. Like the cave paintings in Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, country blues songs were captured already fully formed in the early 1920s by etching the vibrations of invisible sound waves into resin and rock. The 78 rpm records of the Carter Family, Pop Stoneman, and Washington Phillips have been matched but not surpassed in terms of raw beauty and expressive power. The guitarist Marisa Anderson shows reverence to the blues and folk tradition while also expanding on the sonic textures and emotional possibilities of those genres. Her split 7-inch with Elizabeth Cotten has one timeless track on each side: a sublime exercise in finger-picking by Cotten on Side A, and mind-releasing "Canaan's Land" by Anderson on Side B. Anderson stops in Baltimore on May 8 to play the house concert series at 1222 N. Calvert St. with an opening set by another highly regarded improv musician, pedal-steel innovator Susan Alcorn.

• Willie Watson was a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show who flew the coop and now acts alone. His debut album, Folk Singer Vol. 1 (produced by Dave Rawlings), has 10 great folk tunes on it, including "Kitty Puss." Bascom Lunsford was singing that song around 1890, and Kentucky fiddler Buddy Thomas learned it from his grandfather, who picked it up from his mother's whistling repertoire. Watson is touring in support of the record and will be at Rams Head On Stage May 18 with Chatham County Line and Mandolin Orange.

• Spring is turning out to be a good season for album releases. D.T. Huber is celebrating the release of his EP Scorched Earth on May 24th at the Gold Bar with Caleb Stine, Anna Roberts-Gevalt, Letitia Van-Sant, and June Star. Sean K. Preston released The Colt from Old Regret last year, but if you missed it, you have another chance to see him with his band the Loaded Pistols at the Creative Alliance on June 5. There is some truly impressive crooning on Regret-check out "Red River Valley."

• Arty Hill is releasing his new double album at the Creative Alliance on Saturday, June 7 . The show is split like the album?the first set bluegrass/acoustic, and the second honky-tonk, with separate bands. Hill changed his methodology when recording Heart on My Dirty Sleeve (pictured). More of the album was recorded live in the studio than on previous albums, and some of the songs were written the night before they were recorded. The result is a monster of an album: a diverse 28 tracks on which Hill finally shows what some of us already knew, that he's able to command more than one style of American music with the same level of expertise. The psychedelic cover art is fitting of the relaxed musical boundaries and was drawn by Scott McDougall, who illustrated the Grateful Dead's Road Trips series. To hear a track form the album, visit citypaper.com/artyhill.

Lucinda Williams is one of S&T's favorite songwriters and singers. Her self-titled third album was recently re-released on red vinyl. It reminded us that she was also perfectly beautiful and brilliant from the beginning. If you've ever had your heart broken, she doesn't miss a thing. Williams is performing at Rams Head Live on June 8 with the Kenneth Brian Band.

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