Five Cool Ones: Five Cool New Songs Our Ears Are Enjoying This Week (January 15, 2021)

One of the more enjoyable things to do this time of year is to catch up on the singles that dip towards our years in anticipation of the proper release likely to hit the shelves in the upcoming 3-6 months. This time out we have ear-picked 5 choice cuts to rock your world.

Julien Baker – Hardline

The new record, Little Oblivions, comes out on February 26th, but here, with her single “Hardline,”  you get a chance to check out Julien’s more expansive less introspective sound. And, so far we like what we are hearing.

Field Music – Orion From the Street

Shimmering and lush, this expansive track that brings to mind early Electric Light Orchestra is a great placeholder for their new record to be released later in the year.

Baio – Dead Hand Control

The title track from the upcoming January 29th release of his solo record from the Vampire Weekends member Chris Baio.

Still Corners – White Sands

The new record, Last Exit, comes out on January 22nd with their terrific single carrying a bit of a Chris Isaak vibe into the new year.

William Doyle – And Everything Changed (But I Feel Alright)

We will need to wait until March to enjoy the new record from William Doyle, formerly known as East India Youth, but in the meantime, we have this bit of Syd Barret and Robyn Hitchcock wholesomeness to savor.

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (January 15, 2021)

The yearly musical hiatus seems to be over. Artists that have been waiting in the wings for the right time to elicit maximum exposure for their music are back and ready to entertain us once again hanging on to the hopes that they will be able to get back on the road very soon. In the meantime, Rock is the New Roll favorites Moon Taxi performs “Stay” a song from their upcoming album to be released later in the year looking pretty lonely at a Tennessee Titans playoff game.

The Last Internationale with frontwoman Dilila Paz for some reason dressed like Zorro delivering a beautiful socially aware song and video with “Modern Man.”

The Power Pop mavens Radio Days bring joy to the world with their Big Star meets the Rubinoos “I Got A Love.”

Here are five new records that are tickling our ears, touching our soul, and are making the world a better place.

Kurt Vile – Speed, Sound, Lonely KV

Mostly known for his Slacker Rock vibe, here, Kurt Vile leans into the Country and Americana side of life with an impressive 5 song E.P. that serves to pay tribute to his hero John Prine, having toured with the songwriter just before he passed away in 2020. Vile’s handling of Prine’s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” is hero-worthy and floats into Gram Parsons territory, the version of Cowboy Jack Clement’s “Gone Girl” could have been on a Steve Earle record, and the gemstone of the record, “How Lucky,” a duet with Prine himself is worth the price of admission alone.

One of the shorter Kurt Vile efforts we have heard in a while, his records typically go one hour or more, here, less is more as this short-stack of sublime tunes is pretty much perfect.

Beach Bunny – Blame Game

The E.P. is all the musical rage these days as artists are floating out little nuggets of wonderfulness as they raft the COVID waters waiting to release a full album until they can hit the stage and entertain the troops live and in person.

Here, in a short burst of perfectly hooky teenage-anthems the Pop-Punk burst of energy from the opener “Good Girls (Don’t Get Used)”  as well as the closer “Blame Game” will have you firmly convinced that the problems of the world may finally be solved.

Pearl Charles – Magic Mirror

Already earmarked for the 2021 top album list, Pearl Charles has finally found her voice. After experimenting with Garage and Psychedelia, here, she definitely sticks the landing with a laid back blend of Southern California Beach Soul and late ’70s Country Pop in the Bobbi Gentry mold.

The sun-warmed touchstones are in abundance right from the ABBA inpired opener “Only For Tonight.” From there, she takes a left turn toward the coast with the Fleetwood Mac evoking “What I Need,” a song that brings to the ear “Baker Street” as well, with “Imposter” she delivers Dr. Hook without the eyepatch vibes, and The Carpenters make an appearance on “Don’t Like Myself.” The spot-on production value is highlighted on the George Harrison-esque “Sweet Sunshine Wine” and don’t sleep on the Helen Reddy loveliness of “Take Your Time.”

Vintage sounding while still being fresh, this record will stay in your rotation on into the summer when it will be the perfect time to pick it up once again and bathe in its dandelion glory.

Matthew Sweet – Catspaw

With Catspaw, his third record since joining the mass exodus out of Los Angeles, Matthew Sweet has returned to the studio in his home town of Nebraska on another set of Power Pop Wizardy. Turning the guitar dials up just a bit, a-la Crazy Horse, this record has a raw sound with a bit more of an edge than we may be used to from the Fuzz-Pop maestro.

Sweet plays all of the instruments with the exception of the drums here and does so impecibly well. Rooted firmly in ’70s inspired rock, songs Like “Driftwood” have a Sweetheart of the Radio era Byrdsian vibe to them, “Stars Exlode” could have been on any mid-era Neil Young record, and “Challenge The Gods” is Tom Petty fronting Big Star.

Bring out the good stuff and warmly embrace and old friend.

Midnight Sister – Painting the Roses

There is no sophomore slump going on here with Painting the Roses, the fine new record from the Stylized-Pop mavens, Midnight Sister. Delicately mood setting from the sultry “Satellite” on to the disco dancefloor worthy “Limousine” calling for you to put on your Sunday Dancing shoes there is nary a miss-step on this one. “Wednesday’s Baby” is a love song to a dog, and the opener “Doctor Says” is a great string-laden introudiction to the album and to a band that deserves more attention.

Five Cool Ones: Just Five Cool Ones for This Week (January 8, 2021)

As musicians are dusting themselves off and getting ready to make their plans for the new year, the new record releases for this week have been a bit tepid, to say the least. But, fear not musical buckaroos, we will be back in full glory in the next couple of weeks as there are some really cool tunes primed and ready to hit our ear-waves very soon. In the meantime, here five cool ones that have hit our radar recently.

Grace Potter – Release

Somewhere along the line, Grace Potter has started to morph into a slightly more hip Beth Hart. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here, on her fresh as a daisy new video for some inexplicable reason, we see her pulling a boat down the beach in a bikini, slow walking seductively in a field of flowers, and sitting down at the piano singing like a bird. But ours is not to question why ours is only to enjoy the ride provided by this song from her highly excellent 2019 record, Daylight.

Lukas Nelson – Set Me Down On A Cloud

Son of Willie proves once again that the apple falls right next to the tree. His series of quarantine songs, Special Soundcheck Songs, has been a beautiful respite of calmness during these trying days. Here, he performs an acoustically lovely version of “Set Me Down On A Cloud” from his debut self-titled record.

Peanuts Gang – Roundabout

This is a tough song to cover, but here the entire Peanuts gang joins in on one of the best versions of the song you will ever hear. Spoiler alert, Snoopy plays a mean upright bass.

Brothers in Exile – Last Orders

The former member of the Welsh band Sonny Jim, Lloyd Jenkins partners with Stu Calder for a new project, Brothers in Exile. With this, their latest single, the boys deliver a bouncy hook-laden gem in the Wildhearts mold.  Classic Rock magazine describes the tune as more fun than a clown car driven at speed into a bouncy castle. And, heck they may have something there.

The Quins – Wild Ones

Put a pin in this one and save it in your musical memory banks because you are going to bearing a lot more great music emanating from this band in the coming months, you can bet on it. Solid riffs, Power Pop textures with a dynamically voiced singer that can carry the day. For practice dive into their back catalog that includes their 2019 epic of an album, The Woods Look Good.

And, for extra credit check the band out live performing “The Devil’s Abode.”

 

Five Cool Ones: The Top 5 Rock and Roll Songs from 2020

If you have not heard the news rock is not dead, and the demise of good old barn burning Rock and Roll has been extremely exaggerated. Here are our top five singles worthy of checking out to increase your musical street cred.

Thundermother – Driving In Style

These hard-driving all-female Swedish rockers delivered their stellar record, Heat Wave, carrying a ’70s rock groove that can stand fret for fret with any of their male counterparts. The lead-off single “Driving In Style” will take you pedal to the metal down to the parts of your subconscious that you have not visited in a very long time.

The Struts – Cool

It’s no secret that we love Luke Spiller and the Struts. In fact, their new record, Strange Days, would have been our record of the year were it not for the fact that Robbie Williams appears on the single, and we will have none of that. Here, on the appropriately named “Cool” the most dynamic frontman in the game today struts his stuff in a fine fashion.

The Dirty Denims – Last Call For Alchohol

Another fine band with a female rocker leading the way, this time courtesy of Mirjam Sieben, the vibe is pure AC/DC by way of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. With this ode to blasting past the last call at your local bar, or these days in your living room, and letting things rip you can start your own countdown to ecstasy.

The Wild – High Speed

Another Born to Be Wild jump on your Harley and ride hard groover of a tune. You will grow a mullet just listening to this one.

King King – Dance Together

As groove-laden a rocker as you are likely to come across in recent months, these Scottish rockers will make you miss putting a couple more tokens in your local’s jukebox just to make the night last a little bit longer.

Album of the Day: Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers – Honky Tonk Union

Not Country, and with only small sawdust dustings of Honky Tonk, the debut record from Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, a band formed from the ashes of the Refreshments, the Gin Blossoms, and Dead Hot Workshop, is Roots Rock of the highest order bringing to mind John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty. Or, think of them as a bit of a less ramshackle version of the Old ’97s.

The approach to Cowboy Rock that these guys put forth has just enough twang to catch the ear of Dwight Yoakam, Just enough jangle and songwriting chops to impress fans of Chuck Prophet and his band Green on Red, and David Lindley devotees will be quite impressed with the delicately played mariachi Southwest-Noir stylings.

The title track will drift you down South of the border, and “My Heart is a UFO” is a tearjerker that the Replacements could have covered quite nicely, and “Beautiful Disaster sounds like Born to Run’s younger brother. It is a little bit ear-scratching that this band is not as well known as The Blasters, The Bottle Rockets, or Whiskeytown, but there still is a lot of time.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week – Or So (December 18, 2020)

Sure, it has been a slow couple of weeks for new music releases, and here at Rock is the New Roll we took this opportunity to take a week off for a little bit of a Staycation. But, fear not and ears up, we are back and ready to Rock and or Roll.

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real continue to cement themselves as one of Rock is the New Roll’s favorite bands, here delivering a mesmerizing version of J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia” for their soundcheck series of videos.

La. funkster Marc Broussard brings it hard performing live from the Lafayette science museum with “Hard Knocks.”

And, our new to us discovery Fontaines D.C. perform “A Lucid Dream” from their latest record A Hero’s Death on an episode of 6 Music Live Sessions.

On top of all of that, here are five records that have tickled our ears this week.

Paul McCartney – McCartney iii

Much like taking your favorite jacket out of the closet when the weather gets cold, it is supremely comforting to have new Paul McCartney music in our lives. With McCartney iii, a direct sequel to McCartney released in 1970 and McCartney II in 1970, the high notes are not quite reached, but the slight nod of the head to whimsey and the wink of an eye to the oddities of life are clearly expressed along with the overall joy he gets from writing and presenting new music.

The songs are delicately sparse and there is never a sense that Sir Paul is trying to pander to the present-day Pop sensibilities. This is just one of the best artists that ever lived expressing himself through his music, staying in his lane, and delivering his best work in over a decade. The instrumental opener “Long Tailed Winter Bird” will take you back to a generation ago mind-space, the opus of a song “Deep Deep Feeling” is as solid a bit of songwriting you will have heard all year, and “Lavatory Lil” rocks things up a bit and shows that McCartney can still get saucy when he wants to after all these years. Word on the music streets is that McCartney has been hanging around with Rick Ruben. If this collaboration results in a new record in 21 or 22, that would be one hell of a swan song.

Margo Price – Perfectly Imperfect at The Ryman

Fresh off of her sparkling 2020 release, That’s How Rumors Get Started,” one of the Best Americana records of the year, Margo Price virtually owns the hallowed grounds of the Ryman with this solid set of songs going back to her debut with Third Man Records and her breakthrough All American Made albums. Her infectious blend of Country, Memphis Soul, and Texas twang are all on full display accompanied by some stellar guests including Emmylou on “Wild Women,” Jack White on the White Stripes Deep cut “Honey, We Can’t Afford to Look This Cheap,” and Sturgill Simpson tearing it up on “I Ain’t Livin’ Long like this. If you are already a Margo Price fan you will love this record. The medley of “Hurtin’ on the Bottle,” “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and drink” and “Whiskey River is just plain cool. If you are not hip to the Margo scene, get ready to fall in love. Her version of “Proud Mary” is worth the price of admission alone.

Kacy & Clayton feat. Marlon Williams – Plastic Bouquet

Psych-Folk duo Kacy & Clayton this time out stretching all sorts of musical boundaries with their new record Plastic Bouquet delivers Classic Country  duet style musings on “Old Fashioned Man,” Roy Orbison crooner on “I Wonder Why,” and ’60s Sandy Denny British-Folk inspired grooviness on “Light of Love.” In short, courtesy of cousins Kacy and Clayton, along with co-conspirator Marlon Williams, this one is a record with an eclectic delight around every corner that takes you down a road that we all really should travel.

Foxy Shazam – Burn

Do not adjust your ears. You read this correctly. Foxy Shazam, the band that brought you Gonzo in 2014, and The Church of Rock and Roll is back, and, yes indeed they are better than ever. All of the key elements of the band that we love so much are present and accounted for. Solid hooks, operatic vocals, elements of Queen, Jellyfish and Low Cut Connie all blending together to create a Power Pop Masterpiece.

The opener and title track is pure bombastic Foxy Shazam, “In My Mind” is Jellyfish on steroids and S.Y.A.A.F could have been a Styx ballad.

Call Me Spinster – Call Me Spinster

This slightly left of center sister trio from Chattanooga combines old-timey ’50s vocal sensibilities, Think Andrews Sisters,  with pristine harmonies and clever arrangements for a blend that is not only genre-defying but wholly intoxicating as well. “Two Hearts” could have very easily come from a Palmolive commercial back in the day, and “Long Hard Day”  would fit quite nicely on a Norah Jones record. Enjoy this teaser of a 5 song E.P. in anticipation of a proper release sometime in 2021.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (November 27, 2020)

Sure, we have to dig a bit deeper as the December freeze-out time for new releases starts to hit us, but heck, we never said it was going to be easy. And besides, we are doing all of the heavy liftings so you don’t have to.

Aaron Lee Tasjan continues to release solid immaculately produced songs.

Icecream Hands are out with a Beatlesque gem with “No Weapon But Love.”

And, an epic version of “Stand By Me ” that features Roger Daltry and Gary Moore has recently surfaced.

Here are five deftly curated gems for your ears to savor this week.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Straight To You: Live

Kenny Wayne Shepherd who, fun fact, is married to Mel Gibson’s daughter, pretty much consistently stood in the shadow of fellow guitar slinger Jonny Lang until recent years. And, with this his the first live concert recording in 10 years, he may now be on top. A mix of covers along with Shepherd staples like “Blue on Black” the band crackles in places and explodes in others. “Mr. Soul” is a highlight with a scorched earth solo, and “King Bee” takes things a bit lower and slower and demonstrates the versatility of the band along with Noah Hunt’s impressive vocals not to mention featuring an off the rails organ riff.

Cats In Space – Atlantis

After settling in with Damien Edwards, the latest new lead singer for Cats in Space, one of the best present-day AOR bands, we are all in here at Rock is the New Roll. With a vocal range that can time-warp back to the early ’80s, the music here is big, bombastic, and over the top in all of the right places. Very much in the Styx or Boston mold, songs like “Spaceship Superstar” and “Listen to the Radio” are pure Pomp-Rock pleasures, and the requisite ballad “I Fell Out of Love With Rock and Roll” is Queen meets Electric Light Orchestra with a side order of early Journey. And, of course, don’t sleep on the Glam wonderment of “Marionettes.”

Kelley Stoltz – Ah!

Guitar Pop Impressario Kelley Stolz with his latest effort Ah! proves once again that he can stand fret for fret with Matthew Sweet for Power Pop supremacy. Combining Power Pop, Indie Rock, Jangle Pop along with moody Post-Punk sensibilities, this record combines everything that Stolz does best. “Never Change Enough” is a bit of a Country Rocker with a bit of an Old  97’s feel, “She Likes Noise” has a Post-Punk ‘My Sharona feel to it, and “and “Moon Shy” puts it all in a blender of cool smoothness.

The High Water Marks – Ecstasy Rhymes

Their first proper release in over a decade, the Indie Rock pairing of Hilarie Sidney and Ole Bratset is still as strong as ever. Wandering just on the outer edges of lo-fi, the title track comes dangerously close to shoegaze, and the cleverly titled “Some Like It Lukewarm” cranks things up a bit. With Sidney as a founding member of the terrific band Apples In Stereo, these guys know their way around an Indie-Pop rock song, just listen to the R.E.M. flavored “The Trouble With Friends” and tell us we’re wrong.

Billie Joe Armstrong – No Fun Mondays
As evidenced by his collaboration with Norah Jones on a set of Everly Brothers tunes, the Green Day main man is not afraid of taking chances and sending us down a rabbit hole or two for the sake of his songs. And, on No Fun Mondays, a set of eclectically chosen cover songs, he does just that.
Fortunately, there are more peaks than valleys on this one, “I Think We’re Alone Now” doesn’t quite stick the landing, but “Manic Monday” delivers, and, if it’s possible for a Shaun Cassidy (sort of) cover song to be cool “That’s Rock and Roll” is pretty hip.

 

 

 

Rock is the New Roll Best 100 Albums of 2020 (1-25)

025. Larkin Poe – Self Made Man

Larkin Poe, a band comprised mostly of sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, whose great grandfather is Edgar Allan Poe, delivers a healthy dose of Southern Roots rock in the Allman Brothers mold. Their latest record, Self Made Man, rocks a bit more than their previous efforts with shades of Southern Rock, Chicago Blues, and even a bit of Americana Country entering the song cycle at unexpected times. The choruses carry a lot of hooks and the guitar work is aggressive and first-rate particularly on “Back Down South” where guest guitar slinger Tyler Bryant does the heavy lifting.

024. 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.

023. 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.

022. Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You

Albeit a bit slowed down, Bruce Springsteen is back with his entire E-Street band in tow for another set of superbly written anthems. Everything that embodies the boss, and then some, is here including downbound trains, the edge of town, and even a river or two. There are even a couple of three songs that were culled from ’72 demos with “Janey Needs a Shooter” finally seeing the light of day after having been left off all of the early-era albums.

021. Mark Lanegan – Straight Songs of Sorrow

Mark Lanegan has a dark poetic sensibility that brings to mind Nick Cave or Scott Walker. His latest record coming on the heels of the release of his no holds barred bare-knuckle autobiography features guest turns from the likes of John Paul Jones, Greg Dulli, and Ed Harcourt.

020. Cherie Currie – Blvds of Splendor

Perhaps the least famous of the Runaway’s, Joan Jett gets all of the press, Cherie Currie has carved a Glam Rock and Roll path of her own as a solo act along with the likes of Lita Ford and Suzi Quatro. Still in fine voice, her latest record features Guns ‘N’ Roses Slash and Duff McKagan on the supercharged “Mr. X, a highly polished and quite enjoyable take on Nick Gilder’s Roxy Roller that would make Suzi Quatro blush, and a finale that brings together Brody Dalle, Juliette Lewis, and The Veronica’s on the Runaways song, “Queens Of Noise.” Cherie Currie, still rocking after all these years.

019. Elijah Ocean – Blue Jeans & Barstools

Opening for the likes of Dale Watson and Charley Crockett this L.A. based by way of Maine troubadour should very soon be carving his own Outlaw Country niche right alongside Chris Stapelton, Whitey Morgan, and Tennessee Jet. His latest record, Blue Jeans and Barstools will be on the shortlist for Texas-style Hony Tonk record of the year. With highlights like the title track, “Blue Jeans & Barstools” his tribute to Buck and Dwight on “Bring Back That Bakersfield Sound,” and “I Left My One Spot (Back at the Five Spot)” his Outlaw Country street cred passport is stamped, sealed, and delivered.

018. Mapache – From Liberty Street

This one has so many Laurel Canyon vibes wafting all over it the record might as well have been recorded on Joni Mitchell’s couch. This, their sophomore record is a breezy harmony-ladened gem.

017. The Struts – Strange Days

Ears, down our favorite real and true Rock and Roll band in the last five years, Luke Spiller along with his band The Struts are back and as Glam-fastic as ever. Wearing the Queen, Def Leppard, and AC/DC crown with honor, this new record dials down the showmanship and dials up the guitar riffs most noticeably on “Cool” and “Wild Child,” a song that features Tom Morello. This is a band that is maturing before our very ears, heck they even throw in an “Angie” style ballad that is part Rolling Stones and part Black Crowes. Strap your ears on and enjoy. Just start on song number two and skip the title track that features Robbie Williams. But the literal call-in from Def Leppard’s Joe Eliot on “I Hate How Much I Want You” on the chorus is wicked fun.

016. Old 97’s – Twelfth

The Old 97’s, the Americana version of The Replacements, is back and with the leading man, Rhett Miller singing as good as he ever, the band’s playing is better than ever. While the group has fine-wine mellowed (sort of) with age, their core values of singing songs about women, whiskey and life on the road are still intact. And face it, Rhet Miller’s voice alone could melt butter. Highlights here are many, but “Absence (What We’ve Got)” and the mournfully beautiful “Belmont Hotel” are definite standouts.

015. Rufus Wainwright – Unfollow The Rules

When it comes to producing elegant and lush Pop symphonies there are not many artists that do it as gloriously well as Rufus Wainwright. This makes us extremely glad to experience his return to Pop glory after having been distracted by producing his own opera and releasing a record of Shakespeare’s sonnets. This from a guy that uncannily reproduced Judy Garland’s Live from Carnegie Hall almost note for note. With Unfollow The Rules is a set of lush theatrical gems with Pet Sounds worthy production courtesy of Mitchell Froom who has worked with Sir Paul, Elvis Costello, and Crowded House among others.

The daringly beautiful “Early Morning Madness” will certainly stand up as one of his best works, and “Peaceful Afternoon” is a love song for the new millennium.

014. Paul Weller – On Sunset

Whether it is with The Jam, The Style Council, or with his ever-growing cache of solo albums, Paul Weller is always a must-hear. Much like Nick Lowe, Sir Paul is establishing himself as a torchbearer for the old guard rock and roll fraternity. Returning to his old friends at Polydor Records, the label for both of his former bands, on this, his first record since 2018’s True Meanings, Weller has on full display his love for Folk and 60’s Pop in equal measure. “Baptiste” could be a Steve Winwood single from back in the day, and “Old Father Tyme” is a Steve Mariott special.  As is becoming Paul Weller’s M.O., there is a bit of an electronic flair mixed in with the troubadour folk leanings that keeps things contemporary while never losing that Country Squire edge. On Sunset is a surprise around every turn great listen that should, scratch that will be, on our list of record of the year candidates.

013. HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III

It seems that the sisters Este (Guitar/Bass), Danielle (Vocals/Guitar), and Alana (Guitar/Keyboard), collectively known as HAIM, are just getting better and better with each subsequent release. The songwriting is turned up a notch, the Dixie Chicks meet Fleetwood Mac vocal harmonies are front and center delicious, and the overall vibe of their third proper release, Women In Music Pt. III, is cool, melodic, and oozing with confidence. While “The Steps” has more of a Sheryl Crow essence wafting in the air, “Leaning On You” has crystalline harmonies only sibling sisters can generate. This is a great record worthy of end-of-the-year honors for sure.

012. Sam Doores – Sam Doores

With a moody atmospheric vibe that could very well be the soundtrack of some hipster New Orleans dirge after-hours party, Sam Doores uses strings, vintage organs, marimbas, vibraphones, and even an autoharp to create a moody, psychedelic vibe. This eclectic record also includes a stellar guest turn from Alynda Segarra from Hurray for the Riff Raff.

011. Early James – Singing For My Supper

It almost seems that we are contractually required to like any record that comes from Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound record company, but we have no problem with that. From Yola, Dee Smith, on to Kendell Marvel and beyond everything that they touch seems to turn into ear-pleasing gold. And the new one from Early James, Singing For My Supper, is certainly no exception. From the opener, “Blue Pill Blues” we are treated to a semi-lengthy instrumental solo before the song turns into some sort of 70’s inspired warp zone that floats somewhere between Jefferson Airplane and Jethro Tull. As it turns out, the opener simply opens the door to the time travel portal that is fully realized with “Gone as the Ghost” and beyond.

010. Bye Bye Blackbirds – Boxer At Rest

Trying to choose a favorite song or to cull band influences or genres from the choice morsels presented here on Boxer At Rest, this high shelf booze of a record courtesy of Bradley Skaught and The Bye By Blackbirds would be somewhat of a fools’ errand. There is literally nothing not to like with this album. Sure, there are fairy dustings of Big Star, The Birds, Buffalo Springfield, and the Box Tops sprinkled everywhere, but make no mistake. Lenny, Bradley and the rest of the band aren’t simply riding the coattails of those that have gone before them, they are playing it forward with depth and deep reverence. Just listen to the guitar licks that would make Sun Records and Sam Phillips proud towards the end of “War Is Still Hell” and tell us we’re wrong. On “Watch Them Chime” you might catch the scent of R.E.M.’ or even a Tim-era Replacements vibe. And, on “Baby It’s Still You” the horns are back in just the right spots and the band’s secret weapon, Kelly Atkins, announces herself in fine fashion even though she has been classing up the joint earlier with her elegant harmonies throughout many many of the tracks.

At a nice and tidy 33 minutes and 23 seconds, this one is best savored in one sitting with a nice cocktail in hand, surrounded by good friends, toasting those that are no longer able to join us.

009. Hazel English – Wake Up

Wake Up, the hippy, trippy debut L.P. from New Zealander Hazel English is some sort of wicked hot tub time machine, Austin Powers soundtracking, mind warp blending of a Best Coast, Dusty Springfield, Marianne Faithful extravaganza as produced by Phil Spector. Just listen to “Shaking” and tell us we’re wrong.

008. Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started

After having garnered lavish praise with her 2016 release Midwestern Farmers Daughter, an artistic tour-de-force that drew comparisons to Loretta Lynne and Bobbie Gentry,  with her new record she walks that line between ’70s countrypolitan and present-day Nashville with genius and aplomb. With the realism of the title track and the left-turn of “Heartless Mind,” a song that could have been a Deborah Harry single, her versatility is shown around every corner on a release that will certainly stand the test of time.

007. Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real – Naked Gard

With Lukas Nelson, the Willie Nelson apple certainly doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Straddling Rock, Country, Soul, as good as brilliantly as anyone not named Chris Stapleton, here the goodness rolls on with songs like “Focus on the Music,” a song that sounds like Willie could have written it, and “Out In L.A.” as bellwethers for an album hits all of the right buttons in just the right places.

06. Ashley McBryde – Never Will

As official members of the Ashley McBryde fan club from the days when she was hanging out in “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” we are calling our shot now. Never Will, her latest record will be on many of the year-end best-of lists, genre be damned. Rocking it up a bit more than her prior efforts yet maintaining her 80’s ladies charm, this one will put her right up there with Lilly Hiatt and Margo Price in the reigning queen of Country music sweepstakes.

05. Born Ruffians – Juice

Full of hyperkinetic energy, the latest record from Born Ruffians is full of festival chorus-worthy hooks and punchy Jangle-Pop that will bring to mind Weezer and The Pixies. The epic opener, “I Fall in Love Every Night” sets the tone with a frenzied string-laden piano-driven anthem that pretty much drives everything that is yet to come. Brilliant stuff and sorely needed when we are all in need of a mood-changer.

004. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

Chris Stapleton is not messing around with his latest record, Starting Over. Returning to the comfortable environs of RCA Studio A in Nashville with Benmonth Tench and Mike Campbell, a couple of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers in tow, he continues to deliver his own brand of Outlaw Country blending Classic Country, Country Rock, Soul, and Americana to create a soul-soothing mix of impeccably written and produced tunes. It would be a fools-errand to cull a favorite track from this package, suffice it to say all of them are the best. The title song is great, “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice,” Waylon by way of Steve Earle, is even better, and “Whiskey Sunrise” is a mournful Country-Noir belter.

003. Marcus King – El Dorado

Proving in full measure that he can step out from The Marcus King Band and show that he is no guitar whiz one-trick pony, Marcus King shows his songwriting chops and his ability to deliver roots-based melodic masterpieces. Blues and Southern Soul is the order of the day and the top of the mark backing band provided by producer Dan Auerbach and his team at Easy Eye Sound is ‘Wrecking Crew’ worthy. What this record lacks in King’s trademark guitar-shredding is more than made up with the emotional depth and heartfelt vintage soul of an artist that will be on our radar for many years to come.

002. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways

With his first album of new material since 2012’s Tempest, on this, his latest, Dylan is once again in a fine form combining Blues, Folk, Country, Rockabilly, and Gospel with a bit of protest thrown in for good measure. As we have come to expect, the songwriting on this one is a master-class level history and pop culture lesson with each verse.

There are Road-House Blues on “Crossing the Rubicon,” Jimmy Reed inspired Blues on “Goodbye Jimmy Reed,” and on “Key West (Philosopher Pirate) we are taken on a stripped-down 9:00 journey down the acknowledgment path of mortality. And, the epic “Murder Most Foul” brings us face to face with the Kennedy Assassination for good measure.

This one might be the best album of the year.

001. 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.

Rock is the New Roll Best 100 Albums of 2020 (26-50)

050. Blues Pills – Holy Moly

It has been almost 4 years since Erin Larsson and Blues Pills shared their retro-tinged blend of Psychedelic Blues with the unwashed masses, and it has definitely been worth the wait. With Holy Moly, their latest release, the third time is definitely a charm as now, three records in, the band has definitely hit their stride with a revamped more rock less blues sound that seems to fit the Janis meets Melissa Etheridge vocal stylings just perfectly.

049. The Waterboys – Good Luck Seeker

After a couple of semi-uneven affairs, the classic Waterboys with Mike Scott at the helm are back to what brought them here with their latest release, Good Luck Seeker. Pieced together by trading files between the various home studios of the band members may tend to make the overall record seem a bit disjointed, and maybe it is, but since each song stands alone as its own excellent entity this minor flaw is easily overlooked. The opener, “The Soul Singer” is a horn-infested stunner and any song that rhymes Dennis Hopper and Steve Cropper has got to be cool, and the song “Dennis Hopper” definitely is. You will need to look past the electronic forward texture of this record to enjoy it fully if you are an old-school Waterboys fan but the Emerald Isle travelogue worthy “Postcard From the Celtic Dreamland” will take you back home.

048. Bootsy Collins – The Power Of One

Beam down the mother ship Bootsy Collins is back, and it’s like he never left. There is no real re-making of the Funky template here, just some friends sitting in on a stress-free funkadelic late-night jam, and we are all invited to join the party. George Benson jumps on in with the title track, Ellis Hall, also known as The Ambassador of Soul, classes up the joint on “Slide Eazy” while big band Jazz front-man Christian McBride takes you behind the scenes to “Funkship Area-51” and co-conspirator Larry Graham lays down the groove on what might be the cover song of the year on this even more funky, if that’s even possible, version of Sly’s epic song “If You Want Me To Stay.” And, make sure that you don’t sleep on the exquisite saxophone of Branford Marsalis on “Club Funkateers” as a palate cleanser after a fine funky new meal the likes of which you haven’t been able to savor in quite a while.

047. Willie Nelson – First Rose of Spring

Depending on how you count them, Willie Nelson has released over 100 albums, and, amazingly enough, he has not put out a bad record in at least a dozen years. His latest, mostly cover tunes, with a few originals sprinkled in for good measure, just because he can, has him singing wistfully about his certain stage in life. Produced by long time collaborator and friend Buddy Cannon doing the knob twirling, the formula is not messed with. Solid, carefully curated song selections with Willies trademark delivery providing the nuance that makes a song you have heard many times sound even more special and at times brilliant.

Jimmy Dean’s “Just Bummin’ Around” is a gentle and meandering walk in the park, Paycheck’s classic “I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” picks up the tempo and doesn’t stray too far from the original showing that Willie still has his vocal fastball working, and even “Yesterday When I Was Young” is saved from Charles Aznavour Shmaltz with the Teatro treatment that Willie Gives it Here. “I’ll Be Breaking Out Tonight” is a stone-cold country classic expertly delivered by a master at his craft.

Viva Willie!!

046. Mystery Jets – A Billion Heartaches

This eclectic blend of a band combines Kaleidoscopic Folk, Post Punk, and Indie Rock into an infectious ’60s influenced brand of Rock and Roll. From the earworm-worthy song “Hospital Radio” to the delicately soaring “History Has Its Eyes On You” there is something for everyone on this fine record.

045. Dream Wife – So You Gonna…

If The Go-Go’s were just a bit more daring and out there, they might have been Dream Wife. Heavy Garage-Punk, Party-Pop anthems along with dance-worthy rave-ups are the order of the day. With their sophomore effort, So You Gonna …., the sound is a bit more polished than their debut, but no less fun. Recorded with an all-female recording crew, there is a bounce to these songs that can take on a “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” flair one moment and a Blondie worthy flare-up the next. This one is a layered listen with rewards waiting around every corner.

044. Country Westerns – Country Westerns

Enter into this one lightly my friends. These guys might quickly move to the top of your own personal radar as your new favorite band. A Rock and Roll band with a Country sheen, The Country Westerns deliver a party that is slightly more aggressive than American Aquarium, a notch below the ramshackle energy of The Old ’97’s, and just about right to hang with The Gaslight Anthem. Hailing from Nashville it should come as no surprise that the musicianship is par-excellence and with songs like “It’s On Me,” and “TV Light”  singer Joseph Plunkett offers up a cool and raspy vocal performance that would make Paul Westerberg jealous.

043. Neon Animal – Make No Mistake

As the title suggests, this band of merry musicians loves Rock and Roll. They love it so much that three songs on this scorcher of an album have ‘Rock’ in the title. Picture the most rock of any rock concert you have been to, multiply that by three joints and two six-packs, and you just might have the essence of this band.

042. Sweet Lizzy Project – Technicolor

At first listen, you might find Sweet Lizzy Project and their debut record Technicolor somewhat difficult to wrap your ears around, but when you do it will be an enchanting moment for all involved. This five-piece hailing from Cuba was brought over to America with the sponsorship of Raul Malo and The Mavericks. After moving to Nashville the band recorded the album at Blackbird Studios.

Don’t try to pigeonhole these guys, you would find it a frustrating endeavor, and in this case, that is a very good thing.  Swaying from soaring Indie Rock inflections on the title track to the more rocking “Turn Up The Radio” it makes sense that this band would have found themselves opening for Heart.

“Ain’t Nobody to Call” throws a curveball on everything with an honest to goodness cowbell and a bit of a “My Sharona Vibe.” Things get lower and slower when lead singer Lisset joins forces with The Mavericks on the lilting 80’s Country painted “The Flower’s In The Seed.” The tempo and Genre hopping inherent everywhere on this record makes Technicolor one of the best records to be released in this young year.

041. Best Coast – Always Tomorrow

Hard to believe it has been five years since the release of their highly excellent L.P., California Nights, but this one was definitely worth waiting for. Rocking it a bit more than we are used to from this band, every song is a shimmering gem. “For The First Time” is one of the more buoyant break-up songs you might hear this year and “Everything Has Changed” has a bit of a Joan Jett “I Love Rock and Roll” vibe to It.”

040. Zephaniah Ohara – Listening To The Music

It has been two-plus long years since we have heard from Zephaniah Ohara and in album release years these days, that is a very long time. But fear not, it is clear that in the intervening time since his last record This Highway was released way back in 2017 he has been touring, honing his craft, and most importantly he has been Listening to the Music, the title of his latest release.

With a voice that blends Mighty Merle with Waylon Jennings, this troubadour plays like Lefty Frizell, tells stories like Johnny Cash and Tom T. Hall, and wears the road on his boots like Woody Guthrie. Whether he goes into “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” territory like he does on “Living Too Long” or whether he is lamenting the boarding up more of his old haunts each time he goes into the city on “Riding That Train” there is a purity in his voice that we haven’t heard since Glen Campbell.

39. Jonathan Wilson – Dixie Blur

The hills of Laurel Canyon are well represented on Dixie Blur, the latest record from Pop artist Jonathan Wilson. From the wistful throwback vibe of “’69 Corvette” to the rollicking Bob Wills inspired “In Heaven Making Love” there is a new gem to be discovered around every turn.

038. The Empty Hearts – The Second Album

When you have four blokes like these with the Rock and Roll pedigree that they have, at worst this record should be worth a listen, and at best it will be great. And it is great. With Wally Pamar, the voice that brought you “Talking In Your Sleep and “What I Like About You” when he was with the Romantics, Eliot Easton from The Cars, Clem Burke of Blondie, and throwing Andy Babiuk bass player for the Chesterfield Kings in the mix for good measure all pogo-sticking throughout the album, you have one heck of a Power Pop Gem in the making. Heck, even Ringo Starr makes another appearance here on the Kinks evoking “Remember Days Like These.” The ex-Beatle is seemingly everywhere these days having popped up on Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest as well as Dion’s. Earworm highlights are everywhere here most notably “The Best That I Can,” “Jonathan Harker’s Journal,” and “Coat-Tailer, a song the beckons the early days of The Who.

037. Robert Jon & The Wreck – Last Light on the Highway

Just from pure listening standards, you would think that Robert Jon & The Wreck were part of the new wave of Southern Rocker hailing from Alabama or South Carolina. In reality, these guys may have Orange County, California in their blood, but they certainly have Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, even a little Molly Hatchet in their soul. Slide guitars, dual guitar solos, gang harmonies, this one has it all.

036. Hello Forever – Whatever It Is

Pay close attention to this band. In an era where it seems to be cool to jump in the studio, cut 12 songs in 3 days, and release a record to the unsuspecting public, this Psych-Pop group tracked their debut record, Hello Forever, over 200 individual recording sessions, time very much well spent based on the pristine production and attention to detail that is on full display on virtually every song of this fine album. The Brian Wilson soaring and background harmony influence is definitely a call-out here as is Vampire Weekend and Electric Light Orchestra. And, the elongated vocal runs courtesy of lead singer and songwriter Samuel Joseph are definitely Freddie Mercurian. If you like Doo-Wop, Soul, Arena Rock, or even West Coast Folk-Rock, then this highly polished record is your go-to jam.

035. The Jaded Hearts Club – You’ve Always Been There

What do you get when putting together a band that consists of front-men from two different bands, Miles Kane (Last Shadow Puppets) and Nic Cester (Jet), along with various members of Blur, Muse, and The Zutons? One hell of a covers, and more band, that’s what. Chock full of semi-obscure Motown covers and semi-known rock classics you will know by ear if not by name, this record will take you on a drive down nostalgia avenue in a convertible with the roof down. Most of these tunes fully stick the landing, most notably the version of The Four Tops “Reach Out “I’ll Be There” and Screaming Jay’s “I Put A Spell On You.” But, speaking truth to power, “Fever” is best left unheard and Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” that starts things out as a sort of introduction weighing in at just under one minute could have easily been left out. And realistically, does anyone want to hear any rendition of “Money, That’s What I Want” in this day and age?

034. Ray LaMontagne – MONOVISION

Returning to his stellar songwriting roots, Ray LaMontagne returns to his wandering troubadour vibe with his latest record, MONOVISION  bringing to the ear the mellower side of Led Zeppelin along with a side order of Cat Stevens and Van Morrison. “Rocky Mountain Healin'” evokes both John Denver and Neil Young simultaneously, and “Misty Morning Rain” catches a whiff of Donovon by way of Paul Weller.

033. AC/DC – Power Up

AC/DC is back, mostly better than ever, and it’s like they never left. The national nightmare that was the money-grabbing Axl Rose tour is long behind us, Brian Johnson is belting the songs out with Back in Black quality venom, the late Malcolm Youngs’ nephew is filling the rhythm guitar shoes quite admirably, and long-time drummer Phil Rudd is back behind the kit after taking a few albums off. Sure, this is reliable ground they are treading, their sound hasn’t really changed since the Bon Scott Days, but in the case of these Rock and Roll Lifers, this one is the welcome adrenaline shot of good old-fashioned, old-school Rock and Roll that we really need right about now.

032. Blitzen Trapper – Holy Smokes Future Jokes

The album has a real comforting ’60s folk fell instrumentally with a distinct George Harrison penned Beatles vibe, most notably on the title track. “Masonic Temple Microdose #1” is prime “Loser” era Beck, and “Sons and Unwed Mothers” is poignantly beautiful.

031. American Aquarium – Lamentations

One of the many bands influenced by Whiskeytown, building on their critically acclaimed album Things Changed released back in 2018, their latest effort is a combination of Tome Petty meets Bruce Springsteen everyman splendor. Lead singer and main songwriter B.J. Barham just might be the best Americana writer that is not named Jason Isbell.

030. Low Cut Connie – Private Lives

One of our favorite bands of recent vintage has released one of our favorite records of the year. Becoming known as one of the bands on President Obama’s personal playlist as well as for their incendiary live shows and over the top quarantine sessions, Andrew Weiner and his bandmates are delivering piano rock to the masses the likes of which we haven’t seen since the early Leon Russell days. Favorites are sprinkled all over this thing with standouts that include the title track, the slow burn of “Help Me,” a song we all need to help us hang in there during troubled times, and the almost Dawes evoking “Take A Little Ride Downtown.” This is a terrific set of tunes that deserve to have more ears sent their way.

029. The Band of Heathens – Stranger

With Band of Heathens, not since The Alice Cooper Band has there been a band that is nothing like the image that their moniker might imply. This time out there is not a lot of straying from their normal template with various brands of lone star Blues, country-tinged Americana, Roots Rock, Southern Rock and good old-fashioned Rock and Roll all on full display. There is even a cowbell front and center on the song “Dare.” With just the right mix of storytelling alongside political commentary it is clear that if the goal was to one-up themselves following their highly excellent 2017 release Duende, then, mission fully accomplished.

028. Bad Touch – Kiss The Sky

One of the more recent additions to our “Rock and Roll is Not Dead” list of bands, Bad touch is a 5-piece Classic Rock inspired band that based on their sound could have easily come from Alabama or Muscle Shoals Alabama instead of across the band in the U.K. where they are actually from.

Drawing inspiration from The Black Crowes, The Faces, as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Touch should be a musical force to reckon that surely will break out in a big way in 2020. “Let Go” is Black Crowes inspired Blues-Rock standout, and the title track “Kiss The Sky” is a bit more of a rocker with singer Stevie Westwood doing his best Glen Hughes impersonation. Covering Kiki Dee’s “I’ve Got The Music In Me” may seem like an odd choice, but here it works quite nicely and serves to show off the versatility of one of the best new Rock and Roll bands to come around in quite some time.

027. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Fresh off her critically acclaimed collaboration on the Better Oblivion Community Center record with Conor Oberst. Phoebe Bridgers is back in short order with her unique brand of Folk-Pop elegance. The record is a meandering beauty with hushed vocals and lush arrangements with lyrics that can be dark at times against a template of sunshine melodies. The mood is pensive in places, especially on “Halloween” and jaunty in others as displayed on the travelogue inspired “Kyoto.” Exquisitely produced as tight as the skin on an apple this is an elegant release with plenty of high points and very few low ones.

026. 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.

Rock is the New Roll Best 100 Albums of 2020 (76-100)

100. Hong Kong Wigs – Lois

Austin based Hong Kong Wigs walks the same Psychedelic Rock and Roll trail as White Denim. A Power trio led by songwriter Jon Fichter, their new record, Lois, is poised to be one of the best debut albums of 2020. There are highlights a-plenty to savor here with the best of the lot being “Remember,” with Anastasia  Wright taking over on lead vocals, along with “Discopop!” a song that not for accidental timing could have been the summer smash of the year both standing tall.

099. Helen Love – Power On

Helen Love, a group not a person, artfully mixes the quick hit Rock and Roll power vibes of The Ramones with the Art-Rock ’60s girl-group pastiche of The B’52s pretty much perfectly. These infectious Cardiff, Wales rockers consist of Helen Love on bratty vocals, Sheena, who is, of course, a punk rocker, and Roxy and Mark on Casio keyboards that double as drums. Low-Tech but high energy, “Debby Take Contol of the Stereo” melds “Pump It Up” and even “Shout It Out Loud” bombast with “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” shout outs, and “Sandra Dee” is pretty must The Go Go’s on speed. Glorious stuff, indeed.

098. Teddy Thompson – Heartbreaker Please

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since Teddy Thompson, son of Richard and Linda Thompson, but with Heartbreaker Please, his seventh album, his tenor sounds better than ever. And, with these tunes firmly rooted in R&B, Soul, and even Country he seems to be a little less produced than earlier efforts making this by a good stretch his best effort to date.

097. 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.

096. I Don’t Know How But They Found Me – Razzmatazz

It is ear-boggling to consider that a band that was trying to break-out and reach a wider audience would give themselves a name that is largely confusing and mostly un-googleable. And, that is exactly what this band, known to insiders as the equally ear-scratching monicker of iDKHOW, have done mostly distracting from the fact that this band from Salt Lake City, Utah is one heck of a diversely talented Alt-Pop/Power Pop band of the highest musical order. Their latest record, Razzmatazz has touchstones embedded within it pretty much covering just about every musical genre you can think of including leanings towards our beloved Jellyfish. From the Devo and Talking Heads by way of The Cars and Duran Duran aura of the opener “Leave Me Alone” to the Rufus Wainright by way of Queen beauty of “Nobody Likes The Opening Band” and on to the Marc Bolan Night at the Opera refrain of the most morbid “From The Gallows” there is diversity at every turn that will have you coming back to this one for several more listens.

095. Ron Sexmith – Hermitage

Recorded in his home studio collaborating with his longtime drummer and producer Don Kerr, this set of intimate sounding gems has a bit of a Kinks feel to it that is quite pleasing to the ear. With the typical Sexmith whimsey inherent in songs like “Winery Blues” and “Apparently Au Pair” this one proves once again that the escapism that is generated when music is done well is pleasing to the soul and healing to the heart.

094. Hamilton Leithauser – The Loves of Your Life

After his band The Walkmen disbanded in 2013 it seems to have taken a while for front-man Hamilton Leithauser to find his footing, but with The Loves of Your Life, his latest solo effort, he seems to be well on his way to next-level stardom. Inspired by random moments and characters crossing his path, case in point, “The Old King” written as sort of a Pogues style shuffle about a friend he happened to run into that he had not seen in over 10 years. Each little vignette presented here celebrates extraordinary people leading ordinary lives. This is one of the best records to be released this year.

093. Shemekia Copeland – Uncivil War

Nine albums in Shemekia Copeland, daughter of Johnny Copeland, really should be more of a household name than she currently is. Her unique and incendiary  Blues-Rock-Soul style can go belter back of the barroom to Gospel and beyond at the drop of a tonsil. Her newest effort, Uncivil War Puts all of her immense talents on full display, and then some. “Walk Until I Ride” is an updated Gospel number, The Opener “Clotilda’s On Fire” featuring guitar licks that would make daddy proud is an anti-slavery anthem for the modern-day that is about the last slave ship to arrive on our shores long after slavery was declared illegal, and the cover of the Stones “Under My Thumb” takes on a completely new meaning from the voice of someone that has endured domestic abuse on her own home front.

092. The Nude Party – Midnight Manor

Over the last couple of years, Rock and Roll bands like Rookie, White Reaper, and Massive Wagons have announced themselves as one of the torch-bearers of good old-fashioned feel-good Rock and Roll. And, the boys in Nude Party with their latest record Midnight Manor as exhibit A, certainly deserve to be mentioned in that Pantheon. It is not often that a sophomore record can outshine a stellar debut, but here, in this case, the band has definitely stepped their game up several musical notches.

Sure, there are touch-points plenty, The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, T-Rex, just to name a trio of them, but make no mistake, this band is their own unique animal. The opener, “Lonely Heather” shares some DNA with Mott’s “All The Way From Memphis,” “Shine Your Light” will bring to mind Todd Rundgren, and “Thirsty Drinking Blues” is epic-era Jagger and the Stones. “Pardon Me Satan” even has a bit of a Latin tinge to it to add even more diversity to a record that satisfies at every turn. Don’t be surprised if this one gets some best album votes when the end of the year rolls around.

091. Rookie – Rookie

From the first couple of guitar chords that jump from the speakers on “Hold On Tight” the lead-off track from the band Rookie’s self-titled debut record, you can tell that you are in for a Rock and Roll swagger sort of listen. Part Slade infested Glam, Part Greg Kihn Band with a side order of The Replacements thrown into the milkshake, this Bloodshot Records release is spectacularly delicious.

090.  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.

089. Chuck Prophet – The Land That Time Forgot

The former Green on Red main man delivers another masterclass in storytelling on this, his 15th solo album. Rocking a bit more than we may be used to from his last couple of outings, this time out he only recorded three of his songs in San Francisco with the rest recorded in a live setting at the Old Soul studios in The Catskills. “Best Shot” has a bit of Roy O. in the DNA, and “High As Johnny Thunders” is about as great a name-check song as you will find.

088. Rose City Band – Summerlong

Back to back years with terrific albums, The Rose City Band blends early-era Poco and Wilco to create a cosmic cowboy sound that never seems dated and is wholly original. The guitar lines with the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, twang takes this record into a next-level listen that is perfect for a summer day walk in the park are a patio listen with a good set of headphones. Listen closely to “Wildflowers” and you will get a distinct and aromatic scent of The Grateful Dead.

087. Dawes – Good Luck With Whatever

Good Luck With Whatever, the latest Dawes record sounds like Dawes and that is a very good thing. The poignant lyrical sensibility mostly about everyday life are front and center, of course, and this record produced by Dave Cobb and recorded at the RCA studios in Nashville is almost a perfect reflection of a band that just seems to get better with every release without straying too far from their core sound.

086. Tennessee Jet – The Country

Tennessee Jet is part of the young guns of the outlaw country movement right there alongside Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, White Morgan, and Cody Jinks. Bucking the trend a bit by moving from Nashville back to his Oklahoma roots, the album was recorded using Dwight Yoakam’s band giving the record that red dirt feel. A fine interpreter of songs, his version of Pancho and Lefty with guest turns from Cody Jinks and Elizabeth Cook is next level, but the bluegrass version of The Black Crowes “She Talks to Angels” could have been left on the cutting room floor.

085. Thorbjorn Risage & The Black Tornado – Come On In

This outfit is 12 records in and, if you are like us, you have likely not heard of these guys until very recently. But, as Joe Cocker would say, “It’s high time we met.” With a unique brand of Blues that includes two guitars, bass, drums, a pair of saxophones, trumpets, and keyboards, the gravel voice of lead singer Thorbjorn is equal parts, J.J. Cale, Ray Charles, Billy Gibbons, and Leon Redbone.

This is an extremely eclectic listen. This Danish band mixes it up on the jaunty “Come On In,” our early candidate for song of the year along with the J.J. Cale by way of Nic Cave somewhat dark “Two Lovers.” This record kicks it with noir-ish jazz, swampy rock, sultry R&B, uptown funk, and house-rocking blues. We are three listens in with this thing and continue to be stunned.

084. Annie Taylor – Sweet Mortality

Much like Alice Cooper, this Zurich, Switzerland is a rock band with a girl’s name, the lead vocalist’s name is actually Gini Jungi.  Their ’60 inspired blend of Psychedelic Grunge has just enough of a Pop veneer to make this one a highly pleasurable listen with shades of The Ramones, The Seeds, and Blue Cheer.

083. Sam Morrow – Gettinby on Gettin’ Down

If Little Feat is your band then Gettin’ by on Gettin’ Down, the latest from Country rocker Sam Morrow is most definitely your groove-laden jam. The eclectic mix of funky licks and swamp rock kicks combine to make this one a delectable comfort food listen. The title track sends out a Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe, “Round ‘n Round” is pure .38 Special, and “Golden Venus” carries with it the spirit of Tony Joe White, great touchstones, all. There is even a bit of Joe Walsh on “Rosarita.”

082. Skyway Man – The World Ends When You Die

James Wallace, the singer-songwriter known as Skyway Man, fully embraces his role as one of the leaders of the Cosmic Country movement on his latest offering, The World Ends When You Die. Self-described as a psychedelic space opera, the record has a mellow feel to it reminiscent of mid-era George Harrison in places, most notably on “Night Walking, Alone” and in other spaces brings to mind The Band front and center like they do on “Old Swingin’ Bell.”

081. Seaway – Big Vibe

With more hooks than an episode of Dangerous Catch Canadian Pop-Funk outfit Seaway offers up an anthemic brand of Festival Rock that is as exuberant as it is hooky. The ’80’s Power Pop influences are floating around this one for sure, but ’90’s Indie-Punk in the Green Day mold may be a better touchpoint.” Still Blue” is a festival-ready, if festivals ever become a thing again, romper, “Sweet Sugar” takes things a bit slower and even has a scent of The Cars, and “Peach” could easily have been an ’80s Cheap Trick tune. This one is the ’80’s Teen movie soundtrack from a film that was never made.

080. Brothers Osborne – Skeleton

As much as I have been really trying not to like Brothers Osborne with the Nashville hits-factory stench we rightly or wrongly associate with brothers John and T.J. Osborne, my ears won’t fail me now and with their latest long-player, Skeleton, they have suckered me back in. Here, on their third album, the Rock and Boogie is amped up a bit more and the Honky Tonk vibe takes on more of an Outlaw Country flavor with a bit of Rock and a little bit of Roll thrown in for good measure. The opener “Lighten Up” is an out and out rocker and should be a terrific festival anthem, “All Night” is a bit of Bro-Country, but when done this earnestly that is not such a bad thing, and the spirit of Mighty Merle even joins the party on “Back on the Bottle.”

Throw in “Dead Man’s Curve,” definitely no relation to the Jan and Dean song, a burning tune of redemption as long as you make it through dead man’s curve, along with the gentle glide of “High Note” and what you have here is a band that blends Country, Pop, Rock, and Americana better than pretty much anyone in the business. And that is a beautiful thing and a feast for the ears.

079. Bette Smith – The Good, The Bad and the Bette

With her career a bit delayed by her father who felt that a musical career outside the church was wrong, Bette was mentored by Squirell Nut Zipper Jimbo Mathis who encouraged her to come down to Mississippi with him to record her debut record, 2017’s Jetlagger. Returning to the scene of the crime with Mathis once again in tow, this time out Patterson Hood and the rest of the Drive-By Truckers were engaged as producers giving a bit of a roots-rock edge to the Country Soul sound. “Fistfull of Dollars” is a mojo in the dojo ’60s romp, “Signs and Wonders” evokes a bit of Tina Turner, and the closing tear-jerker “Don’t Skip out on Me” tells the story of a couple just trying to keep things together. Mariachi horns and all.

078. Cayucos – Blue Summer

The allure of the surf and the sand is definitely calling your name the very instant that you drop the needle down on Blue Summer, the latest Surf-Pop extravaganza from L.A. sunshine band Cayucos. Beach Boys’ touch-points are obvious for sure, but this one goes a bit deeper than that. The tones, textures, harmonies, and knob twirling are varied and all-in ear-pleasing. And the twin brothers at the core of this band Zach and Ben Yudin, never really take themselves too seriously. “Malibu ’79 Long” is a clever homage to “Good Vibrations,””From the Rafters” is full-on “Surfin U.S.A.,” and “California Girl” is most probably the convertible top-down driving song of the year. This is the love letter to summer that you really need right now.

Lydia Loveless – Daughter

Lydia Loveless has always had that perfect mix of country smooth and Rock and Roll swagger. And now, she is back and better than ever with her latest record, Daughter. Clearly wearing her life well-lived heart on her sleeve, this time out she shows a bit more of her vulnerable side most notably on the opener “Dead Writer.” Having made a love-following move from her native Ohio to North Carolina after a tumultuous couple of years since 2016’s Real, Loveless appears to have come out the other side as feisty and no-nonsense as she has been her entire career.

076. Delta Spirit – What Is There

Moving away from his recent burst of solo records, Lead singer Matthew Logan Vasquez is back with his band Delta Spirit with their first proper release since 2014’s Into The Wide. And, it seems, this six-year musical hiatus is just what the musical doctor ordered. Fresh and invigorating in places and dark and semi-brooding in others this is a record that is perfectly crafted for these days living through a pandemic. “How Bout It”  is a murder ballad about gambling addiction, album opener “The Pressure ” sounds like a Dawes song on steroids, and “Better Now” is a modern-love love song. There is not a squeaker on this belter of an album.