The Upstate’s own NIEL BROOKS has released a mesmerizing new album, SEWN INTO THE SKY, in-stock now only on vinyl LP!

Who says you can’t make a gorgeous “dark night of the soul” album that’s largely without vocals? That’s what our friend Niel Brooks has done with his new album, Sewn Into The Sky.

With his intricate acoustic guitar playing and unerring sense of mood, the melodies unwind gently, moving down unexpected paths but never straying too far from the evocative motifs that pull you into the middle of his world. You’ll hear echoes of artists like Neil Young or Jackson Browne on the handful of vocal tracks, and a lot of Mississippi John Hurt and John Fahey in his guitar playing, but this is ultimately all Niel and all excellent. Here’s some musings from the man himself on making this record.

“It was late October, and I was fighting a terrible head cold and medicated to within a hair of a coma. I was sitting on my front porch, tuning my guitar to what I thought might be something inspiring, and for the next two hours fumbled around to find I’d been tuned to David Crosby’s “Guinnevere”. That’s not so strange, really. I’ve listened to that song since I was a baby and my dad would play the Crosby, Stills, And Nash album. What I found, though, was a wide open ocean of undiscovered (at least to me) voicings and harmonies that would later become “Narmie And Rosie”.

Narmie and Rosie were two lovely cats, owned by my friend, Cara, for nearly fifteen years. When Narmie passed away, it wasn’t long until Rosie joined. A matter of days, really. This is the only song on the record with two guitars: a six and twelve string. They come in and out of unison, play harmonies with each other, and bow out intermittently. There is also a bit of reverse echo on the recording: something I’ve always thought was an interesting sound on some of Jimmy Page’s recordings. In a roundabout way, that type of reverb is the future preceding the present. The way it’s done, and hopefully I won’t bore many people, is to record an echo with the track, then reverse the tape and line up the echo swell with the beginning of the note that produced the echo – Past to Present. In use, it sort of sounds like swell of sound, ending with a pure tone of guitar. It’s kind of like how things sound when I’m dreaming. I might be dreaming that I’m in the woods, and I hear a train in the distance, but there’s no up and down doppler effect, so I can’t tell where the sound is coming from.

After I’d written the main parts of “Narmie And Rosie”, I set up in my small recording space to put it down on tape. And from there, the rest of the album came right out. There are two microphones, a tape machine, and some reverb here. Each song has larger meanings to me, but would no doubt change the listener’s perspective if I were to delve into them in detail. So here’s just a few things I thought listeners might want to know.

Lisa Stubbs (Mourning Dove) sings harmony on the track “The Angels Laid Him Away/Louis Collins”. This song was written by Mississippi John Hurt. Hurt originally recorded the song in 1928, for OKeh Records. It’s one the finest examples that I know of in the American murder ballad catalog, and certainly a song that many songwriters have looked to for inspiration. Whether “Bob shot first”, or not, isn’t the point. It’s the moaning loss and despair by Louis’ mother that really resonates through the song. And in a climate like today, where many news organizations try to search for reasons to blame victims, this song is still pertinent. A mother has lost her child, and that’s what we know. It’s all too confusing, too common, and a little too real.

“What Happened On Saco River Road” is simply a Piedmont Blues that I wrote about a hidden little road located in the “dark corner” of South Carolina. This mysterious area of the foothills and mountains, just at the border of North and South Carolina, was home to much of the illegal moonshine-stills during Prohibition. There are lots – and lots – of hidden, forgotten, and buried (whether on purpose or by the natural erosion of the particular geographic location) homes, stills, and paths in these hills. They all hold the secrets of their past close to the earth. When the revenuers came through the area, searching to bust the moonshiners, more often than not, those revenuers never returned home. Also sprinkled among those old worn stills are the remnants of family graveyards, enormous muscadine patches, thousands of waterfalls, and just about every kind of kudzu. It’s not hard to find old stone arrow heads and other buried oddities throughout the area… nor is it usually hard to find the remnants of a recent beer party from local teenagers. It’s all amazing, like walking through an uncurated museum of American history.

This record was made over a few days in late Autumn, and I hope that feeling comes through. If you listen to the song, “Sewn Into The Sky”, using headphones, you can hear the rain storm outside. No studio trickery here to get rid of outside sounds. All of my foot tapping is genuine and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks to Lisa Stubbs for the harmony vocals, and for everyone giving me inspiration when my thoughts tell me that the well is running dry.”

Sewn Into The Sky is in-stock now on vinyl LP only, along with these other titles from Niel’s catalog!

  

  • NEW RELEASES, 6/22: KAMASI WASHINGTON, DAWES, NINE INCH NAILS, DAVE KOZ, T. HARDY MORRIS and more!
    On Heaven and Earth, Washington continues to explore a sweet spot between artistry and approachability. Whether his success will lead audiences to further explore music that usually exists on the fringes is an interesting question. What is more certain is the quality and accessibility of his own music. Heaven and Earth feels writhingly alive and passionate, angrily of the moment but inclusive.
  • NEW RELEASES: ARTHUR BUCK, BUDDY GUY, ISABELLE FAUST, GASLIGHT ANTHEM, JOHNNY MARR, and more!
    Former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and often-experimental singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur have teamed up for an album that was written mostly in a few days after a chance encounter in Mexico and recorded nearly as quickly. Fresh and spontaneous, it's also filled with precious sonic details, like little flashes sparking the songs. Unsurprisingly, Buck's layers of acoustic guitars and bright and brief solos provide numerous R.E.M. textures
  • YAMAHA NATURAL SOUND A-700 INTEGRATED STEREO AMPLIFIER
    A classic “hoss” circa 1983/84. 100 watts per channel! Has phono input.
  • BOSE 901 SERIES V SPEAKERS WITH BOSE 901 SERIES V ACTIVE EQUALIZER
    The essentially crossoverless design gives the 901 an unmistakable coherence, the model’s greatest strength. Its incredibly wide dispersion comes in a close second. The Bose 901s sound great anywhere in the room, After extensive listening, the Bose 901s strike me as being damn good. They have some limitations, but don’t all $1,400 speakers? For that matter, what $10,000 speakers are perfect? They are so smooth and musical.
  • SANSUI FR-D35 SEMI-AUTOMATIC DIRECT TURNTABLE
    A new stylus has been installed on the vintage AT cartridge and all features of the table work perfectly!
  • SANSUI SR-525 DIRECT DRIVE TURNTABLE
    Excellent working and sounding Sansui SR-525 full manual direct drive turntable. A new stylus has been installed, and the cartridge has been properly aligned in the headshell according to Sansui specifications. This is a very heavy table with great Sansui build quality.
  • BOZAK CS4000 mod speakers, omg!! these big-boys ROCK!
    8 tweeters, 1 midrange and 2 woofers per. all original, very clean. extremely rare and VERY AMAZING sound!
  • EPI A110 SPEAKERS: 2-way, classic bookshelf charmers! Sound great, woofers rebuilt like new!
    2-way, classic bookshelf charmers! Sound great, woofers rebuilt like new. Circa 1980’s Epicure Productions vintage feature 8”woofers. Critically acclaimed in their day and still sound good, audiophile delivery without the high dollar price. Full-on ready, great sound, woofers rebuilt like new!
  • TASCAM 102 CASSETTE DECK!
    So fresh and so clean! This deck is in great shape and sounds like a champ. Bust out those old bootlegs and mixed tapes.
  • VINTAGE RARE SAE MARK XXXI SOLID STATE STEREO POWER AMPLIFIER WORKS GREAT! SOUNDS GREAT!
    Unit is in really nice physical condition. Recently gone through, tested and checked, all functions have been tested and work great! ready to rock with a pre-amp!
  • ADVENT LAUREATE Mini Tower Speakers
    amazing sound, brilliant natural refined listening experience. woofers on both speakers just completely rebuilt better than new! The Advents, both large and small, sounded pretty good and gave excellent value for the money. The company was one of a long string of companies that descended from the original Acoustic Research (AR). Advents eventually lost their enormous popularity and nearly faded away. International Jensen, a company based in the Chicago suburbs, rescued Advent and resurrected it. The Advent model we tested deserves a Ph.D. Advent appropriately names it the Laureate. The Laureate overwhelmed my skepticism that a modestly priced floor-standing loudspeaker could deliver good sound