Austin360 On The Record: Spoon, Ruthie Foster, Will Johnson, Lili Blessing

RECENTLY RELEASED

Jim Eno, left to right, Britt Daniel and Rob Pope of Spoon perform at The Main during South by Southwest on Tuesday March 14, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Spoon, “Hot Thoughts” (Matador). Austin’s reigning indie-rock band returned to the label that issued its first album 21 years ago for their ninth full-length release. The key to Spoon’s long career is their ability to sonically reinvent themselves with each record while adhering to an artistic sensibility that unifies their entire catalog. That’s certainly the case on “Hot Thoughts,” which features 10 tracks that find leader Britt Daniel continuing to push the boundaries of creativity as a songwriter, from the instant-connection rhythmic pop of the title track to keyboard-driven mood piece “I Ain’t the One” to the fascinating five-minute instrumental “Us” that closes the record. “Shotgun” even gets in some local references, name-checking Rock & Roll Rentals and the Continental (a nice rhyme scheme). The group’s inspired three-night club stand during South by Southwest, along with radio appearances and a Waterloo Records set, served as a perfect coming-out party for the album. They’ll spend most of the next six months touring the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia; a return home for ACL Fest in October seems like a strong bet. Here’s the track “Can I Sit Next to You”:

OUT THIS WEEK

Ruthie Foster, “Joy Comes Back “(Blue Corn). Ruthie Foster isn’t quite a blues artist, but she’s been nominated for a blues Grammy three times. She’s not really a country artist, but Chris Stapleton wrote the first song on her new album. She’s not exactly a rock artist, but yes, that is Derek Trucks of the Tedeschi Trucks Band playing slide on the title track. And nobody would call her music heavy metal, but there’s Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” jumping out from the middle of the record in a completely reimagined style. By now it’s clear that Foster pushes the broad umbrella of Americana to its limits in every direction. That’s pretty much been the case since her 1997 debut album, but it’s especially apparent on “Joy Comes Back,” on which Foster’s soulful, gospel-informed voice ties together material that reflects the breadth of her talent and perspective. A mid-album stretch of “War Pigs,” the Four Tops’ Stevie Wonder-penned hit “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” and Mississippi John Hurt’s easy-rolling “Richland Woman Blues” — disparate classics from bygone eras — exemplifies the timelessness of Foster’s interpretive approach. Yet it’s an album-closing pair of much more contemporary tunes — local songwriter Shawnee Kilgore’s “Abraham” and “Forgiven” by Deb Talan of folk-pop duo the Weepies — that feels most personally revealing here. In-store March 24 at Waterloo Records; release show April 1 at Paramount Theatre. Here’s the title track:

Will Johnson, “Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm” (Undertow). With acclaimed Denton indie band Centro-Matic recently ending their two-decade run, the now Austin-based Johnson seems set to focus more on solo records. His third album in five years emphasizes colorful pedal steel accents from Ricky Ray Jackson on songs that often stretch out like panoramic western paintings. The fuzz-layered “Every Single Day of Late” and roots-folk-rock-rambling “Predator” are more full-band affairs, but the record’s most dramatic moments come from spacious numbers such as “Hatteras,” the nearly eight-minute closer. In-store April 13 at Waterloo Records; playing April 25 at 3Ten. Here’s the opening track, “Childress (to Ogden)”:

Lili Blessing, “Lifeline” (Sleeveless). Could the most promising singer-songwriters in Austin be under 21? Last month we called attention to Christina Cavazos, who at 17 released a seven-song disc that’s likely to stand as one of the best local records of 2017. Now comes the debut of 20-year-old Lili Blessing, a McCallum High School alum with a captivating voice and a gift for exquisite folk-pop melodies. Playing piano and guitar and singing both lead and backing vocals, Blessing brings a sense of wide-open wonder to songs that range from to light-hearted charmers such as “Salvador” to deep-dive explorations like “Running in Space” to the gracefully uplifting  “Gravity.” While the influence of her mother Sara Hickman’s music is clear, Blessing rises confidently as her own talent on “Lifeline,” in no one’s shadow. In-store March 29 at Waterloo Records. Here’s the track “Kinda Want You”:

COMING SOON

  • MARCH 29: DC Bloom, “Just Another Song and Dance Man.”
  • MARCH 31: Toma, “Aroma.”
  • APRIL 1: Bluebonnets, “Tonewrecker,” release show April 4 at Antone’s.
  • APRIL 7: Darden Smith, “Everything,” in-store April 6 at Waterloo Records, release show April 8 at Stateside at the Paramount.
  • APRIL 7: Sweet Spirit, “St. Mojo” (Nine Mile), release shows March 31 and April 1 at Barracuda.
  • APRIL 7: Octopus Project, “Memory Mirror” (Robot High School).
  • APRIL 7: Cotton Mather, “Wild Kingdom.”
  • APRIL 7: Greg Vanderpool, “Pilot,” release show April 7 at Continental Gallery.
  • APRIL 7: Digital Wild, “Tall As Trees” EP.
  • APRIL 7: Walker Lukens, “Ain’t Got a Reason” EP (Modern Outsider).
  • APRIL 14: Digital Wild, “Tall As Trees” EP.
  • APRIL 19: Ulrich Ellison & Tribe, “America.”
  • APRIL 21: Emily Bell & the Talkbacks, “Kali” EP.
  • APRIL 28: Willie Nelson, “God’s Problem Child” (Legacy).
  • APRIL 28: Beth // James, “All in Life” EP.
  • MAY 12: Suzanna Choffel, “Hello Goodbye,” release show May 12 at 3Ten.
  • MAY 19: Fastball, “Step Into Light,” pre-release show April 20 at Saxon Pub.
  • MAY 19: Wild Now, “Afterglow” EP.
  • MAY: Wendy Colonna, “No Moment But Now.”
  • MAY: Kay Odyssey, “What’s a Woman to Do” (Little Bit).

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