The quality of new music is down a touch from some really stellar prior weeks, but fear not, August is trending to be a stellar month. Despite the lack of quantity, there is a slew of really cool singles out there as artists seek to teasingly tickle our ears in anticipation of what is yet to come. The Rolling Stones, yes those Rolling Stones have released another single, “Scarlet” featuring Jimmy Page.
The band Whitney has delivered a spot-on version of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” reminding us what a great song it really is.
And, of course, Grace Potter continues to deliver her Monday Night Twilight quarantine episodes.
Here are five albums that are capturing our ear time this week.
Ted Russell Kamp – Down In The Den
Despite being one of the more prolific artists on the Americana scene with 12 records in the last 15 years, Ted Russell Kamp is largely an unknown entity in the music scene unless you are a hardcore fan. And, that is really a shame. Having played bass for many of the top artists including Shooter Jennings, Whitey Morgan, Jessi Colter as well as many others, with the release of his latest, Down in the Den, he may have just altered his history from sideman to top of the marquis.
Alternating country-rockers as displayed on the opener, “Home Sweet Hollywood,” a duet with Shooter Jennings, Dixieland on “Hobo Nickel,” and downright balladry as he fights life on the road while trying to keep a relationship going like he does on “Stick With Me” there are no miss-steps on this record. With a voice that is honest and open with a timbre that as ear-pleasing as it can get, the inherent songcraft and general spirit of this ralbum will bring to mind the last couple of Chris Stapelton records.
The Danberrys – Shine
The Danberrys are an old-school husband and wife team delivering rich story songs of pastoral blues and back-woods funk. With Dorothy Daniels’ soaring vocals in the Tanya Tucker mold and Ben Deberry’s masterful guitar playing moving the needle, the sound is dynamic and the overall texture of the record borders on country noir. There is a swagger to their recordings that was not inherent in their previous recordings most notably on the opening track “Shine” and the stunning “Holding the Bag.” The duo enters into Steve Earle territory on “The Road,” and on “Never Gone” they seem to be heading towards the dark night of the soul.
Give this one a spin, several listens in you will discover a few layers that will stick with you for a long time.
Liza Anne – Bad Vacation
Bad Vacation is an interesting moniker for an album during these times when pretty much any vacation is a good vacation, but in this case, in the capable hands of Liza Anne, it seems appropriate. On her previous record, Fine But Dying, and in periodicals and various interviews she has given her battle with mental illness has been bravely chronicled in her art. And here she certainly makes no exception especially so on “I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist” and “This Chaos, That Feeling” where the loss of a relationship seems to have her spinning in her own mind. Stylistically veering down the track with stops at Power Pop, Indie Rock, Art Rock, and Emo stations, this is a diverse and powerful record that will have you considering your own place in the world.
MisterWives – SUPERBLOOM
Once you are hit with the sonic U2 on steroids opening blast, “The End,” curiously placed at the beginning of the record, and Mandy Lee’s vocal kicks in with her Chrissie Hynde meets Stevie Nicks vibe, all bets are off and you will be hooked and ready to listen to the rest of the record. Next up, “Ghost” raises the stakes with another anthemic festival-worthy gem, and things only get better from there. “whywhywhy” slows the tempo down, but only just slightly, until mid-song when a chorus kicks in that would make ABBA rethink their career choice.
Mid-record the soaring pace slows a bit with a couple of ballads thrown on top of the fire but by the time “over the rainbow” rolls around the dancing fiesta is back and in full force. Once you get down to the end of the record, the title track is presented in all its Gospel glory and the glorious ride is about to come to an end. If soulful horns, gorgeous melodies, gospel-harmonies, catchy hooks, and soulful festival-ready anthems are your jams, then this record will have you fully ensconced in your happy place.
Roberta Flack – First Take
The stunning debut record, First Take, is getting a glossy 50th-anniversary reissue makeover and it sounds fresher and better than ever. With a stripped-down band of Roberta on Piano, Ray Lucas on drums, Ron Carter on bass, and John Pizarreli on guitar, every song on the record is handled with a velvet touch. From the stunning opener “Compared to What” to the Leonard Cohen penned “That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” and on to, of course, the epically beautiful “The First Ever I Saw Your Face,” if ever there was a debut record that was better than this one, I’d like to know.
Seasick Steve – Love & Peace
It has been a minute now that Seasick Steve has been on the scene entertaining us with his raw and powerful performances, and we as humans are all the better for it. Self-produced, Love & Peace delivers a confident set of Howlin’ Wolf by the way of White Stripes gnarly blues for the common man. The opener “Love & Peace” is a tour-de-force call to arms where Seasick practically commands the rest of us to stop the hatred and get back to love and peace. “Regular Man” is a solid blues stomper where Steve touches around the fringes of the mystery of his backstory, and Carni Days is an outright ballad describing the not so glamourous life of a traveling carnival worker.
Seasick Steve is one of us. Just a regular guy with an unusual gift to be able to touch our hearts and cleanse our soul.