The roll continues to rock this week with some intrinsically cool nuggets perfect for palate cleansing.
The mighty Luke Spiller and The Struts are out with an outstanding E.P., Unplugged at East West.
Americana OG’s The Long Ryders are out with a new video and single in advance of their upcoming record.
And, Brian Dunne, a newcomer we are starting to get behind, has released the single, “It’s A Miracle,” in advance of his soon-to-be-released long player, Loser On The Ropes.
But, enough with the foreplay. Here are five carefully curated selections to please the senses and tickle the earbuds.
Shamus – The Shepherd and the Wolf
Springing from the retro-rockers Sheepdogs collective, a stable that includes The Sheepdogs, the band BROS, and now Shamus, The Shepherd and the Wolf, is the latest project of band member and multi-instrumentalist Shamus Currie. With heavy 1970s influences throughout, the record is a concept album centered around a world of fantasy and adventure.
A rock opera of sorts, there are enough progressive rock touches to satisfy the faithful, leaving the edges to be rounded out with healthy doses of rock and roll. Think of a Jethro Tull without the flute.
From the opening “Days of High Adventure,” the stage is set for an aural journey that will shape-shift your mood back to the days when the music was intelligent and escapism the order of the day. With musical muses the likes of Thin Lizzy, Early Steve Miller, Moody Blues, and King Krimson, the prog riffs are there for sure but are contained to the mini opus level.
Meant to be digested as an entire entity in one sitting, this is a journey worth taking.
Jenny O. – Spectra
Opening with the mighty Hammond B-3 organ on “Pleasure In Function,” Jenny O. introduces us to her newest record which is stylistically a bit of a departure with more indie pop than we may be used to from her.
“You Are Loved Eternally” floats on a George Harrison solo-years cloud, “Prism” is a floater that comes across a bit like Suzanne Vega, while “Advise at A Dinner Party,” a song that reminds us that we get better as we age, has a Bangles dance party vibe about it.
You won’t find yourself passing over any tracks on this record and while Jenny O. might not seem to be as edgy as she was back in her Automechanic Days, this more laid-back introspective version is pretty much perfect for our ears.
Lucero – Should’ve Learned By Now
Having curated a sound that has evolved from Southern rock to Americana, Stax soul and beyond, Lucero continues to release quality music that lifts the spirit and soothes the soul.
From the cowbell declaration of the opener, “One Last F.U.,” the ears perk up, and the train starts rolling, soundtracking a morality tale anthem that would make Tom Waits cringe. Veering away from the Southern-goth imagery, on this, the band’s twelfth record, they return to the barrooms and the bar-rock roots already well-traveled by The Hold Steady, The National, or the Drive-By Tuckers.
Essentially an album about drinking, “Macon If We Make It” is about waiting out a storm in a backwoods watering hole, “At The Show” espouses the youthful exuberance of waiting for your friends trying to figure out how to get into the bar where your favorite band is playing, and “Drunken Moon” speaks for itself.
Overall, Should’ve Learned By Now should stand up in the upper tier of the band’s canon, and for a band that has put out quality work for more than 20 years with essentially the same band members, that is saying a lot.
The Shootouts – Stampede
Coming quickly on the heels of their last record, Bullseye, the timeline for the follow-up shortened once Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson expressed an interest in working with the band. With Stampede, the band’s third long player, the musical template remains the same, Western swing with heavy doses of classic country and Americana thrown in for good measure.
With guest turns from Mary Stuart on “Better Things We Do,” Buddy Miller on “Anywhere But Here,” and the underrated Jim Lauderdale on “Tomorrow’s Knockin’,” the album at times takes on the collaborative feel of a Willie Nelson picnic.
If Bob Wills is the king of Western Swing, then Ray Benson is the crown prince, case in point, “One Step Forward” as presented here. And, if all of that fails to scratch your honky tonk itch, “I’ll Never Need Anyone More,” with Raul Malo pitching in, should have you heading for the dance floor post haste.
En Attendant Ana – Principia
With a vibe that flows somewhere between Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kate Bush, and the chanteuse go-go boots era, the Parisian combo En Attende Ana will hot tub time machine you back to a simpler time when your television had rabbit ears.
Hipster, stopping just short of being shoegaze, the opener, “Principia,” mood-sets the rest of the record with the jangle-adjacent guitar, echo chamber production, and floating Delores O’Riordan-style vocal textures.
“Ada, Mary, Diane,” while a bit more contemporary sounding than much of the record, is nonetheless a compelling jam, “Black Morning” is a bouncy pop tune that would have fit in quite nicely in Melanies’ canon back in the day, and “Wonder” is a vulnerable piece of art with the evocative lyric, “I’m a good human being, my mama said, I hope she’s right,” is a song right from the Aimee Mann playbook.
A groovy listen from start to finish, with the subtle horns, vintage organs, and selective use of the mellotron all coalescing to take you back to a simpler time while keeping your feet planted in the present.