Add Ralph Stanley to the list in this year the music died.

Stanley did a lot more than contribute "O Death" to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. If there is a person more responsible for the current americana wave, I don't know who it might be. Most folks tap the Byrds and the Grateful Dead as pioneers in the whole roots-country rock-etc. sound, but Stanley's expansive take on bluegrass informed both bands, the Dead in particular.

And if O Brother invigorated the americana movement, then it could be said that Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys have their hands all over the soundtrack.

But all that isn't as important as losing one of the great musicians of the last 70 years. It's not every day that sentence can be written.

Because Jon and Matt say so

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Kansas City is just alright

People tend to overlook the Midwest when they think of music scenes. And within its small corner of the Midwest Kansas City has long been overshadowed by Lawrence (which is a college town, but still. . .) and Omaha. But there have been solid musicians swirling around the river city for something going on forever. A couple of years ago, a gaggle of those got together to form the Philistines.

The Philistines
The Backbone of Night
(The Record Machine)
One of the reasons Midwestern bands get overlooked is that they tend to mix genres freely. The one general unifying trait is a rootsy edge to the rock, but the Philistines skip out on that. They dive straight into 13th Floor Elevators territory and add a dollop of 60s sugar pop. The sound veers from Brian Jonestown Massacre (genre blenders extraordinaire) to the Zombies to a bit of the Archies. And then the 70s intrude.

Feedback. Heavy chords. And yet that pop sweetness never quite subsides. The Philistines wander through a dense curtain of sounds, never losing their way. The hand guiding these songs is masterful. There's every reason for this to be a big, fat mess. It most definitely is not.

What a glorious place these beasts have created. By and large, it's best for musicians to worry more about where they're going than where their sound came from. The Philistines process all of their influences through the band's own grinder, and while what emerges isn't a coherent sound, it is wonderful.

Enjoy the journey. The sights are spectacular.