Started as a mostly instrumental side project, Portland-based roots twangersBlack Prarie have created a more balanced, but equally dark and layered, experience in their recent second album, A Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart. Comprised of members of the Decemberists and Dolorean, Black Prairie composes gothic roots ballads and instrumental pieces using an old-time mix of slide guitar, banjo, accordion and fiddle. The new album still offers many instrumental songs, but takes more advantage of fiddle player Annalisa Tornfelt’s lonesome voice. With the addition of sporadic piano and rustic percussion, their latest album pushes Black Prairie into new territory.
The investigative documentary series Frontline recently went down the rabbit hole of campaign finance spending by looking at how super PACs and Citizens United affected races throughout Montana in their recent episode “Big Sky, Big Money.” Led by journalist Kai Ryssdal, the show tours a Democratic super PAC, sits down with supporters of the Citizens United Supreme Court case and interviews Montana residents about outside influence on the state’s political races. “Big Sky, Big Money” and other Frontline episodes can be viewed online at the show’s website. Frontline’s next piece, “The Suicide Plan,” premieres Nov. 13 and will focus on the nation’s varying policies on assisted suicide.
In an idea that seems too long in the coming, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver recently teamed up with Bushmills Irish Whiskey and master luthier Gordy Bischoff to create a custom baritone guitar from the white oak wood of a whiskey barrel. The kidney-shaped guitar features Bushmills bottle caps for the volume and tone knobs. The 1608 Guitar, so named for the founding year of the Bushmills distillery, sold last week for $9,400 at auction to benefit a community arts center in Vernon’s hometown of Eau Claire, Wisc. Three more guitars are expected to be built for the project. And hopefully other distilleries will follow. Maybe Jameson can team up with Shane MacGowan.