Anti-Folk, Meet Post-Rock

Overcoat Records was an unusually quiet label for most of last year. Owner Howard Greynolds became a father last March and the Boas, the most promising band in his stable, broke up in June. But he’s had an active 2005 thus far. In February he put out the American edition of This Cloud Is Learning, the 1999 album by Swedish roots crooner Nicolai Dunger, and on April 12 he releases the much anticipated debut album by Texas tunesmith Micah P. Hinson. Overcoat’s biggest news, however, is its upcoming release of a collaboration between indie-rock pillars Tortoise and Will Oldham. Their ten-song disc, a wide-ranging collection of covers, is slated for October, and there’s talk of a tour.

Greynolds, who has played with Oldham and worked with Tortoise as an employee at Thrill Jockey, sparked the meeting a couple years ago, after hearing that Oldham had covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” at his live shows. “So I asked him if he had a copy of his version so I could give it to my dad, who’s a big Springsteen fan, and who Will is friendly with,” says Greynolds. When Oldham said he didn’t have a recording of the song, Greynolds suggested he make one. “And he said, ‘If you get Tortoise to do it with me, I will.'”

The two acts had talked casually about working together in the past, Greynolds says, but their schedules and priorities never quite meshed. The collaboration was originally planned as a four-song session last October at Soma Studios (owned by Tortoise drummer John McEntire), but everyone was pleased enough with the results to meet for two more sessions–one in December and another in March.

Oldham initially presented a list of tunes for Tortoise to choose from, but the two sides soon began trading suggestions. The final track list includes “Thunder Road” along with takes on well-known songs by Elton John (“Daniel”), Richard Thompson (“The Calvary Cross”), Devo (“That’s Pep!”), and the Minutemen (“It’s Expected I’m Gone”). Covers of Milton Nascimento’s “Cravo e canela,” Melanie’s “Some Say (I Got Devil),” Don Williams’s “Pancho,” Lungfish’s “Love Is Love,” and Quix*o*tic’s “On My Own” fill out the disc.

“On one level, it sounds like a cross between Tortoise and Will Oldham,” says Tortoise bassist Doug McCombs. “But ultimately it sounds like a collaboration between six people, not just a group and one guy.” (The album also features guest vocals from Sally Timms and horns courtesy of local jazzbos Aram Shelton, Jeb Bishop, and Corey Wilkes.) Greynolds initially envisioned the project as part of a series or box set of similar projects he’d help put together; he’s since scrapped that idea, but an EP of new songs written and performed by Calexico and Iron & Wine is tentatively set to come out on Overcoat later this year, and a collaboration between Jon Langford and Richard Buckner will be released on Langford’s own Web-based label, Buried Treasure, in May.

“With Will and Tortoise, to me it’s like Dylan and the Band in the digital age,” says Greynolds. “I’ve been trying to contain my excitement. Even though it’s a covers record, I just see it as a landmark that these two got together and made an album.”

That’s All There Is and There Ain’t No More

Slint’s recent three-night stand in Chicago didn’t just close the group’s monthlong reunion tour: according to David Viecelli of the Billions booking agency, the gigs were their “last shows ever” and the band has no plans to work on new material. But the Chicago concerts, along with three others in San Francisco, were recorded, and the west-coast shows were filmed as well.

What tapes and footage will be released–and in what form–is still an open question. Fans have been speculating about an archival Slint project ever since the group announced the reunion last year; the chatter only increased during the winter, when Touch and Go Records used its Web site to put out a call for old footage and photos. That effort yielded nothing, says label publicist Miranda Lange, and a box set including remastered versions of the band’s two albums, Tweez (1989) and Spiderland (1991), has been tabled. But a live CD and/or DVD could be out as early as this fall, with the remasters available in 2006.

Viecelli notes that any Slint collection or reissue won’t include outtakes or unreleased material. “There’s just nothing like that, unfortunately,” he says.

Hogan Working Overtime

Local roots chanteuse Kelly Hogan has been busy of late: in addition to finishing work on a live record with her jazz quartet, the Wooden Leg, she’s guested on upcoming albums by Chris Mills and Sonny Smith and composed new material for the sound track to Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar, a documentary about female wrestlers. She’s also finished recording an album with Love Hall Tryst, a group featuring herself, John Wesley Harding, and Nora O’Connor.

Hogan figures prominently on a tribute disc to fellow Atlanta native Joe South. The singer, songwriter, and session hand wrote a series of hits in the 60s–including Deep Purple’s “Hush” and Billy Joe Royal’s “Down in the Boondocks”–before becoming a successful solo artist, recording the hits “Games People Play” and “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.” But after his brother and collaborator Tommy killed himself in 1971, South withdrew from the spotlight.

The tribute was released in February by San Francisco label Jackpine Social Club, and the bulk of its contributors are from the Bay Area. Hogan sang a version of South’s “The Greatest Love” and produced Otis Clay’s rendition of “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”; both tracks were recorded in Chicago with locals including Kevin O’Donnell, Andy Hopkins, Dave Max Crawford, Paul Mertens, and Mark Greenberg.

This Thursday Hogan cedes her regular slot at the Hideout to a show she’s promoting featuring legendary jazzman, playwright, and performer Oscar Brown Jr. He’ll perform April 7 at 8 and 10 PM with his band, which includes his daughters Maggie and Africa, keyboardist Calvin “Koko” Brunson, bassist Yosef Ben Israel, and drummer Kwame Steve Cobb. Tickets are $15 for each show or $25 for both.

Hot Dogs and Yellow Pills

Jordan Oakes, founder of the zine Yellow Pills and patron saint of power-pop geeks, has teamed up with the Chicago reissue label Numero Group to produce a 33-song compilation titled Yellow Pills: Prefill. Focusing on the late 70s and early 80s, the two-CD set unearths hard-to-find nuggets from lesser-known regional acts like Luxury, the Finns, the Trend, and Shoes. Numero approached Doug Sohn, owner of Hot Doug’s in Roscoe Village and a power-pop fan, to help celebrate. The restaurant will host the release party on April 1 and put a Jordan Oakes special on the menu for that day; Numero will sell discounted copies of the set at the event, which runs from 10 AM to 3 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Matt Carmichael.