Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (May 29, 2020)

Wow, just wow. One of the best weeks of the year on the music release front and that isn’t just because Lady Gaga and Jimmy Buffett both have records out this week. The shelter in place policies has yielded some positive benefits in the form of a new E.P. by John Forgety and his family where he takes recent quarantine performances and gathers them all in one place for our listening pleasure. Highlights here include intimate renditions of “Down on the Corner,” “Proud Mary,” and “Bad Moon Rising” along with a version of “Centerfield” recorded in the actual centerfield of an empty Dodger Stadium. Pretty cool, actually.

Here are five properly cool albums that have made our ears tingle this week.

The Reflectors – First Impression

What a spot-on perfect name for the debut record from one of the best Power Pop bands to cross our ear-paths in quite a long time. Citing the Raspberries along with The Buzzcocks as major influences, the crunchy guitar chords and deceptively timeless lyrics will bring you back to the late ’60s early ’70’s at the blink of an ear. All Killer, no filler, every song’s a winner on this one especially on the Big Star vibing “Champagne” and the Garage Rock banging “U Should Be My Girl.” It will be impossible to be in a bad mood after listening to this record.

Nicole Atkins -Italian Ice

Ever since the release of her excellent 2017 record Goodnight Rhonda Lee Nicole Atkins has been on our radar. Here, with her new record Italian Ice she takes her retro wardrobe to the next level. Recorded in Alabama at the Muscle Shoals Studios with two members of the vintage Muscle Shoals rhythm section, bassist David Hood and Keyboardist Spooner Oldham, this elegant record does a lot of genre-hopping. There are sprinkles of ’60s girl group, plenty of Dusty Springfield influences, as well as splashes of Disco-Lite and Classic Country. Guest turns from Spoon’s Brit Daniels, Civil Wars veteran John Paul White, and Avett Brother Seth Avett take this one up to next-level coolness.

Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross

Just when we thought that Ashley McBryde was our favorite bad-ass rocker du jour, Jaime Wyatt jumps into the fray with Neon Cross. Such a bad-ass that she was once arrested for robbing her heroin dealer. Produced by Shooter Jennings, it seems that he is everywhere these days, from the vulnerable opener “Sweet Mess” her whiskey worn voice that falls somewhere between worn-hard era Tanya Tucker and early-era Melissa Etheridge signals that everything about this used to be lost soul is entirely authentic. The title song is a bit of a rocker while “Rattlesnake Girl,” a song that addresses her sexuality, is Country Rock with an emphasis on the country. Having produced 2019’s fine Tanya Tucker record, While I’m Livin’, Shooter Jennings along with Jamie Wyatt has come up with another stellar performance to add to their respective resumes.

2nd Grade – Hit To Hit

Formed by a collective of like-minded musicians gathered up from the ashes of various Philadelphia area Pop-Punk band, 2nd Grade with their debut record Hit To Hit, deliver an infectious set of Indie inspired Power Pop gems. 24 tightly knit songs in just under 42 minutes, the ride takes you on a gentle roller coaster of jubilance on “Sunkist,” Beach Boys-inspired harmonies on “Not in the Band,” and Replacements worthy energy on the short but extremely sweet “Boys In Heat.” With musical touchpoints, the likes of The Rubinoos, The Replacements, The Greg Khin Band, and Teenage Fan Club your summer Jam just might be here a little bit early.

Vickie Kristina Barcelona – Pawn Shop Radio

This trio of talented female singer-songwriters seems to have come together specifically to pay homage and make this album as a tribute to gravelly-voiced barfly Tom Waits. Individually, they have played with the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Peter Gabriel, and Jackson Browne, but here with their collective voices, they may have found their true calling. Presenting the semi-deep cuts of the Wait’s canon, “Jersey Girl” displays their newfound found harmonic convergence brilliantly, and “Tango Till They’re Sore” takes on a Middle Eastern broadway stage quality with their arrangement here. The song made famous with its appearance on The Wire, “Down In The Hole” is also a stellar standout. This is a layered listen with each round yielding more sonic gems courtesy of a master songwriter lovingly covered by three fangirls that, here’s hoping, won’t make this a one and done affair.

 

 

What We’re Listening To (May 22, 2020)

Here, in the Halls of Rock is the New Roll with Jeremy Wren and Nigel Owl on assignment Bernie Sparrow and I are left to fend for our musical selves. And, anytime Bernie is involved there usually is some sort of hot tub time machine mind-altering time warp going on. So, that is what we are listening to.

By pretty much a long stretch, Fanny, Sorry Runaways, is our favorite Rock and Roll all-girl band. They are universally recognized as the first band with no male members to make an impact opening for the legends of the day from David Bowie to Deep Purple. While only relevant for five years between 1970 and 1975 their five-album output represents the best of 70’s Rock and Roll gender be-damned.

A scorching live band June Millington (guitar, vocals), Jean Millington (bass, vocals), Alice de Buhr (drums, vocals), and Nickey Barclay (keyboards, vocals,) all contributed equally to their live appearances that included spots on The Old Grey Whistle Test, The Sonny and Cher Show, American Bandstand, and this one from The Beat Club, Germany’s most famous band show.

Blackberry Smoke – Keep On Smilin’

Long a fixture of their live shows the Wet Willie Southern Rock classic “Keep On Smiling” resonates perfectly in the hands of this real-deal band that is the perfect mix of The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Here, The Smokers are joined by original Wet Willie vocalist Jimmy Hall on a pretty much perfect version of the song.

The Bubble Puppy – Hot Smoke & Sassafrass

Given that he was born and raised in San Francisco it is somewhat perplexing that Bernie Sparrow loves the Texas Psychedelic band The Bubble Puppy so much. Hello, Bernie!!!!! can you say 13th Floor Elevators. In any case, I best not judge, the song “Hot Smoke & Sassafrass is actually pretty groovy,  otherwise, I will be listening alone.

Leon Russell – Asylum Choir

Boom!, Bernie. Take this little shot of tuneage courtesy of Leon Russell and his side-kick Marc Benno. First-rate hook-laden goodness wrapped in a blanket of Psychedelic grooviness that was ahead of its time. The record is Flamin’ Groovies one second, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and doses of The Move everywhere else. Brilliant.

Zephyr – Sail On

The band Zephyr is most notable for putting guitarist Tommy Bolin on the musical map. Their early records featured riff-heavy Rock & Roll that prominently featured vocalist Candy Givens, a singer that was gifted with a back of the barroom voice that would make Janis blush.

I am more of a fan of the bombastic “Sail On” from their debut record.

But Bernie, ever the contrarian and avid cover song worshiper calls for St. James Infirmary every time.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (May 22, 2020)

As things show signs of getting back to semi-normal, the release front is full of singles to be savored in advance of future releases. Our friends in Cats In Space are out with the fantastically retro “This Is London,” Classic country-inspired duo My Darling Clementine take us back to yesteryear with “Different Finger,” and even Foster The People do what they do best on the anthemic “Lambs Wool”.

Here are five records we really like this week.

Reckless Kelly – American Jackpot/American Girls

Reckless Kelly is one of those Texas hardscrabble road bands that have traveled the country for years, releasing one stellar record after another, but never really getting the recognition that they deserve. Their latest, an ambitious opus of a double album that includes the album American Jackpot along with an extra album’s worth of songs that were written and recorded during the same sessions. With a bunch of stellar guests including Charlie Sexton, Suzy Bogguss, Gary Clark Jr., Shawn Sahm, and Wade Bowen, If you are a fan of Texan Red Dirt Roots music then this is your jam.

Captain Black Beard – Sonic Forces

First of all, here at Rock is the New Roll we are all suckers for cool band names and this one fits the bill quite nicely. Secondly, when we hear a band that so fully envelopes their retro-ness that your ears must do a double-take to figure out what rock era the record is coming from, then we double down and jump into the pool.

The Band Captain Black Beard fits the bill on both points.  The one and really only musical touchpoint here is mid-era Journey with a lead singer that actually sounds like a likable hybrid of their current crooner Arnel Pineda and the old-school Journey stylings of Steve Perry. While technically an AOR, album, “Adult-Oriented Rock'” or, if you prefer, “Album Oriented Rock” if you forced us to assign a genre to this band, don’t let that pigeon-holed description stop you from kicking back and enjoying the record in all its retro glory. There are a lot of high points to savor including extended guitar interludes, combustible driving anthems, and an overall vibe that will take you back to much simpler days.

Juicy Lucy – Juicy Lucy

In a rare appearance of a re-release record in this forum, the new 180 gm vinyl pressing of the debut album by Juicy Lucy is definitely worth a mention. Mostly know for their fast and mean cover version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” included on this record, the reality is that this Blues-Boogie band goes much deeper than that. Originally released in 1969 the album includes a curious blend of harder-edged Blues-Rock, Grateful Dead worthy jams like “Whiskey In My Jar” and a scorched earth version of Chuck Berry’s Nadine that sounds like it could have come from the Sons of Anarchy’s jukebox. Their version of “Built For Speed” with the mid-song greasy sax solo will have your ears lamenting the fact that this band crashed and burned far too soon.

The Sleep Eazys – Easy To Buy Hard To Sell

Imagine in your mind’s-ear that Joe Bonamassa formed a surf guitar band complete with a wonky organ that delivers groovy original tunes along with retro versions of secret spy anthems including “Hawaiian Eye,” and “Bond (On Her Majesties Secret Service)”.

Well, that is exactly what he has done. Inspired by his guitar mentor super-session guitarist Danny Gatton, Joe’s side-piece band The Sleep Eazy’s have released what should be the ears-down instrumental record of the year. It is almost pointless to pick out the highlights here, there are so many, but notable nuggets include the chick-a-boom drenched “Polk Salad Annie,” the ventures inspired take on “Ace of Spades,” and the Les Paul vibing final refrain of “It Was A Very Good Year.” This one is out of left field in all the best of ways.

The Teskey Brothers – Live at the Forum

The Teskey Brothers first arrived on our musical radar in 2019 with their most-excellent release, Run Home Slow. Now, with this live record originally scheduled to be released on record store day 2020, we are treated to intimate live versions of their last couple of records along with a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” Recorded old-school style directly to analog tape capturing during their four night stand in their home town of Melbourne, Australia, the brothers Teskey might be the best Aussie export since Foster’s beer and the boomerang.

 

What We’re Listening To – The Jellyfish Edition (May 17, 2020)

Jellyfish/The Lickerish Quartet/Imperial Drag/Foxygen/Foxy Shazam

Jellyfish

Jellyfish was a SanFranciso based band that was unapologetically retro in all the best ways of ways. With a Pop sensibility that brings to the minds-ear XTC, Badfinger and The Zombies, the band, formed around singer-songwriter Andy Sturmer, keyboard player Roger Manning along with Jason Falkner, crashed and burned mostly due to musical differences after two spectacularly immaculate records, Bellybutton and Spilt Milk.

Imperial Drag

Born from the ashes of Jellyfish was the band Imperial Drag that featured Jellyfish alum Roger Manning, singer Eric Dover, and drummer Andy Sturmer. The band was one and done. The Grunge obsessed fans of the mid-’90s were never a nuanced bunch and killed the group before it ever really got started.  Never the less, their Glam-forward self-titled record was an exercise in perfect Power Pop with that little bit of extra edge that made them really cool.

The Lickerish Quartet

And now, The Lickerish Quartet is playing it forward with their new record, Threesome, Vol. 1, a four-song E.P. that features Eric Dover, Roger Manning, and Tim Smith former members of the legendary band Jellyfish getting together for the first time since 1994. If you miss Slade, Queen and Marc Bolan you will love this band.

Foxygen

Foxygen and their 2013 album We are the 21st Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, along being with clear disciples of Jellyfish and Glam rock are another one of the bands that are not ashamed to wear the retro-rock tag with great honor. If Lou Reed and David Bowie had a love child the resulting spawn would be Foxygen. Unfortunately, having crashed and burned mostly due to the over the top LSS (Lead Singer Syndrome) affliction Sam France was dealing with, or maybe they ran out of money hiring a full symphony orchestra for their 2016 release Hang, in any case, the band is now on an indefinite hiatus.

Foxy Shazam

Another one of those backward-looking retro rocking bands that seem to have crashed and burned far too quickly, for our tastes anyway. With their intoxicating blend of rock and roll theatrics, a maniacal mix of double-kickdrum percussion, and howling vocals, maybe after lighting the sky on fire with 2012’s The Church of Rock and Roll maybe it is best for a band like this to die young and leave a good looking corpse.

— Jeremy Wren —

 

 

 

What We’re Listening To (May 15, 2020)

Sure we’re a bit gutted here at Rock is the New Roll that there is a bit of a delay on the new Chuck Prophet record, but hey, we will get over it. Here are some of the fine records we are listening to here in The Falcon’s Nest.

Dion – I Got Nothin’ 

On this true blues song from Dion where he collaborates with Van Morrison and Joe Louis Walker on this classic Blues tune that sounds like it could have come right out of the Allman brothers, actually, the best is yet to come.

The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

In a somewhat obscure musical moment, a local sports talk show fellow was describing a back in the day bar hopping expedition in College Station when there was a busker in front of a bar of playing random songs. He said his band was playing in town and they were just going to jam in this local Texas  A&M bar before the gig playing only cover songs. The dude said his name was Ian Anderson and his famous song was “She Sells Sanctuary.” I immediately tweeted the dude as he was on air and told him I wasn’t aware that Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson ever stood in for Ian Astbury as lead singer for the Cult. He corrected himself, giving me a shout out, and all was well.  This, of course, sent me down a Cult rabbit hole.

There are, of course, a zillion versions of “She Sells Sanctuary out there, but this one from the Rock Show House of Strombo is one of our favorites.

Tesla – Signs

Here at Rock is the New Roll we have more than a few Rock and Roll guilty pleasures and Tesla is one of them. And, with the latest live Tesla record recorded at Abbey Road front and center in our skulls, we embarked on a journey to find the original version of the song that was set to vinyl. Here is the 2019 version.

And, here is the version from 1990 live from The Trocadero as it was meant to be heard on the Five Man Acoustical Jam.

Metallica – Blackened 2020

From the And Justice For All Metallica album, here\, the members of Metallica do a Quarantune version of the song updated for 2020.

Brothers Osbourne – All Night/Paul Cauthen – Cocaine Country Dancing

Sure, we accept and can handle the heat we get from Loving the over the top Retro-Sleaze of The Cadillac Three. So, it should come as no surprise that “All Night” from The Brothers Osbourne is right up our street.  with lyrics like “I got the good if you got the time/I got the Moon, you got the shine/ I got the back if you got the beat /Got the solid gold 33 on repeat” what is there not to like?

And then, there’s the remix of Paul Cauthen’s “Cocaine Country Dancing” featuring Electrophunk. Don’t tell me most of you have not been there.

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (May 15, 2020)

Another week where we lament what could have been including some stellar records that were supposed to be released today including the new Chuck Prophet, Weezer, and the great Bon Jovi New album, all widely anticipated records that did not see the light of day today. Here are five nice records that are rocking our hedgerow this week.

Ruthie Foster – Live at the Paramount

Texas Blues legend Ruthie Foster is out front and center with a very strong set from her performance at The Paramount in Austin. Sprinkled in with her stellar original material are several really choice cover versions of “The Ghetto,” “Ring of Fire,” and “Mack The Knife.” Several listens in, the overall sentiment in the halls of Rock is the New Roll is that Ruthie Foster should really be much more famous than she is.

Jason Isbell – Reunions

As expected, the new Jason Isbell record is spectacular. His band, The Four Hundred Unit is one of the cracker-jack units in the business, and this one might surpass Southeastern as the best album in the Jason Isbell canon given enough listening time. Extra credit to Jason for releasing the album exclusively to independent record stores one week in advance of delivering the finished product to the unwashed masses.

Gretchen Peters – The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury

Mickey Newbury is one of those songwriters that wrote a lot of songs that you really love that you will be surprised to hear that Mickey wrote them. Here, Gretchen Peters approaches each song with reverence and love in an understated manner that is perfect for a late-night listen. “Just Dropped in (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” is broken down to the core of its elements, “San Francisco Mabel Joy” is sung with such precision that in your minds-ear you might as well be watching a movie and “She Even Woke Me To Say Goodbye” is even more of a tear-jerker with the delicate interpretation that Gretchen gives it.

The Lickerish Quartet – Threesome, Vol 1.

Anytime that two members of the iconic Bay Area band Jellyfish come together to form a band, color us all in. Here, with Eric Dover and Joseph Manning Jr. coming together with the rest of The Lickerish Quartet it is an event celebrating in Psychedelic Rock heaven even if it’s only an E.P.

Willie Nile – New York at Night

It’s official, with the release of his latest, New York at Night, Willie Nile has taken the mantle from Lou Reed as the King of New York. Having been doing his thing from the late ’70’s Nile comes across his love for the city naturally. Here, with “New York Is Rocking,” “The Backstreet Slide,” and “New York at Night” the new Pope of Greenwich Village is more than alive and well.