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.

Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Records Released This Week (May 8, 2020)

Under normal circumstances, when the second week in May rolls around, the release year would be hitting the sweet spot. If you want your record to be semi-fresh in the minds-ear of music fans for the end of the year polls May to July is the definite place to release your album and you get the added benefit of having your earworm of a single added to the soundtrack of the summer.

The bad news, though is that several big-time artists including Norah Jones, Margo, Price, Haim, and The 1975 are delaying the birth of their record until later in the year.

But fear not, there are still a few savory sounds to enjoy this week.

Steve Forbert – Early Morning Rain

The distinct somewhat warbling voice that brought you the terrific “Romeo’s Tune” brings you a mostly solid set of cover songs curated nicely for the range and genre identity of an artist that is pretty much criminally ignored when it comes to mainstream success. The highlights here include Americana versions of The Dead’s “Box of Rain,” “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down,” and the spectacular “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” where it sounds as if the song was written for Steve to sing. The lowlights, well, do your ears a favor and just skip “Your Song.” Only Leon Russell should be allowed to do a cover of this one.

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.

Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor

As the frontwoman for decades now with her band Paramore, it is a bit surprising that Petals For Armor is her debut release as a solo artist. With touches of Baroque Pop in the Kate Bush and Tori Amos mold, Haley Williams delivers a deeply personal song-set that covers a tumultuous period in her life that includes marriage, divorce, and her mother’s life-altering injury.

David Myles – Leave Tonight

There is a bit of a timeless quality in the ten song-set that David Myles delivers on Leave Tonight. With a slight nod of the fedora to the ’50s crooners of days gone by along with a West Coast Jazz and Laurel Canyon vibe, the resulting collection paints a picture that a collaboration between Joao Gilberto might have generated.

Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer, Vol. 2

Carrying the torch for the lighter side of Country songs, Texas Honky Tonk legends Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen partner up once again for a deliciously fun set of tunes that laments losing a woman to a rodeo clown instead of the Marlboro man, pays tribute to Mighty Merle on “Let Merle Be Merle,” and gets their bar-fight on with the title track, “Hold My Beer.” If you are looking for that mid-set joy of throwing your head back and guzzling a couple of long-necks at warp speed, then this is your honky-tonk jam.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Records Released This Week (May 1, 2020)

As we turn the page and enter into a new month, surprisingly, many artists are putting out some really quality work despite not being able to tour behind their new release. The Ruen Brothers, The band that released the album of the year in some circles (most notably ours) in 2018 with All  My Shades of Blue, are front and center with “Lonesome,” a single in advance of a record to be released later in the year.

Norah Jones continues to tease us with material from her upcoming record with “Tryin’ to Keep It Together,” and even Kenny Chesney is out with a new album this week. But, none of this really can beat the excitement of a new collaboration between The Hu and Halestorm on their collabo single “Song of Women.” Mongolia meets heavy metal. Color us all-in.

Here are five records that are in heavy rotation in Rock is the New Roll H.Q.

Hot Country Knights – The K Is Silent

Possibly, no album in the history of the site has stirred up more controversy in the halls of Rock is the New Roll than the debut album from Hot Country Knights, The K is Silent. Their send-up of 80’s hat-country, a genre that brought us Clint Black, Tavis Tritt, and Garth Brooks, is done with such pure intentions that you can’t help but just sit back and enjoy the ride. Dierks Bently is the ring-leader here fronting a band that is part Steel Panther and part Midland. Skip right by the Bay City Rollers S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y style introduction on the opener “Hot Country Knights” and stroll on down to “Pick Her Up” featuring Travis Tritt on a song that sounds pretty much like what you would expect a Travis Tritt song to sound like, and spend some quality time with the Garth inspired “Then It Rained.” If you don’t take this one too seriously, it is an enjoyable listen.

American Aquarium – Lamentations

This is a band that quite simply is getting better and better with each subsequent release. Their 2018 record, Things Change, was pretty great, and the band has even turned it up a notch with their latest, Lamentations, part Whiskeytown by way of Jason Isbell era Drive-By Truckers and part Bruce Springsteen inspired storytelling. With the knob-twirling production of former dB’s frontman Chris Stamey, this one is one of the better releases of the year, any genre. The opener, “Me+Mine (Lamentations)” is epic in all its 6 minute and 40 seconds glory.

Hala – Red Herring

Hala is the nickname of Detroit based bedroom popster Ian Ruhala. Starting his career as a low-fi D.I.Y. artist in the Mac DeMarco bold, with his major-label debut Hala may be about to break out into the mainstream. The record is polished enough, but not overly so, to provide a lovely pop sheen without losing the homespun charm of the artist’s earlier work. There is a bit of a Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes feel to this one as well. Listen to this one twice back to back and we are convinced that it will be on your rotation for much of the year.

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.

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.

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Albums Released This Week (April 24, 2020)

Ok, let’s take care of the elephant in the room right away. If you are a Danzig fan, do NOT listen to the new Danzig record, Danzig Sings Elvis. If you are an Elvis fan, do NOT, under any circumstances listen to, Danzig Sings Elvis. Now, if there were some way we could get an Elvis Does Danzig record, well color us hell to the yeah.

This week is more notable for the singles and E.P.’s than albums. The Everly Brothers cover version of “Mr. Soul” from an upcoming archives release, is next-level cool. The Rolling stones have a new single out, are you listening to this Billy Joel, called “Living In A Ghost Town,” that is pretty epic. Jackson Browne is pimping his new record set to come out later in the year with the song “Downhill From Everywhere” that is pure ’80s era, Jackson. And, Rock Is The New Roll muse Check Prophet gives us a treat with a four-song mini-E.P. foreshadowing his new record, Land Time Forgot.

But, we digress. Here are five cool ones giving us an eargasm this week.

Lucinda Williams – Good Souls Better Angels

We suppose it was only a matter of time that Lucinda Williams would make her presence known on her view of the state of affairs in the country today. If you had any doubt before where she stands, the song titles alone on this one will tell you pretty much everything you need to know. “You Can’t Rule Me,” Man Without a Soul,” and “Down Past the Bottom” are just three. But, politics aside, this is Lucinda at her Tom Waits by way of Steve Earle with a nod to Patti Smith best.

Darell Scott – Darrell Scott Sings the Blues of Hank Williams

Full disclosure here, while Rock is the New Roll writers Cletus Crowe and Jeremy Wren might not be fans of cover songs, or entire albums of songs covering one artist for that matter, some of us, the ones that matter, love them. And here, is one terrific one in Darell Scott Sings the Blues of Hank Williams. “Just a Deck of Cards and a Jug of Wine” is a terrific and accessible way to take a journey down the Lost Highway that is the Joie-de-vie of Hank Williams.  The arrangements here are contemporary enough to make this a cool as hell listen and the nod of the cowboy hat is always front and center. “Lost Highway” is a must-listen, and the closer “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle” might just bring you to your knees. We are calling our shot now. This is the covers album of the year.

Wyldlife – Year of the Snake

It has been back in the days of yore, the days of  The Biters and The Struts, since a real live Rock and Roll band has garnered as much praise within the hallowed halls of Rock is the New Roll HQ as we have heard in recent days with the release of Year of the Snake, the new record from Wyldlife. All killer, no filler, as they say with that intoxicating flair of blending ’80s Brit-rock, ’70’s Glam, and CBGB’s Ramones era Post-Punk, all in one blender. Anthems galore on this one including “Sacre Bleu,” “Automatic,” and naturally, our favorite, the album closer, “The Falcon.”

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.

Brendan Benson – Dear Life

If you have not heard One Mississippi, the Power Pop masterpiece by Brendan Benson released in 1996, stop whatever you are doing right now and listen to it. Here, we will help you out with that.

Now, with your pump sufficiently primed, take an ear-gander at Dear Life, the first proper record Brendan Benson has released into the wild since 2013. Taking a break from his side-piece band, the Jack White-fronted  Raconteurs, Benson proves once again that despite what Matthew Sweet might tell you, Benson is the reigning prince of Power Pop.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (April 17, 2020)

When Fiona Apple, Shelby Lynne, and The Vapors, yes those “Turning Japanese” Vapors, come out with new records in the same week, it must be a sparkling week for new music.

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Boltcutters

One of the most intimate records to come out so far this year, Fiona Apple lays it all on the line with Fetch the Boltcutters, her first album since 2012. From the opener “I Want You to Love Me” you can feel the pain expressed in her voice with a heart laid bare for all to endure the pain right alongside her. With sudden starts, stops and tempo changes the listener is asked to listen attentively and allow themselves to be immersed in a world that is uniquely Fiona Apple’s.

Bobby Bare – Great American Saturday Night

With 2 top-notch records already released with Bare and Sleeper Wherever They Fall, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of room for the live Great American Saturday Night back in 1978 when it was recorded, or, that is what the record company said anyway. Having been shelved for the better part of 21 years the album finally gets to see the light of day in all its Honky Tonk Glory. And what a party record it is. Filled with plenty of raucous sing-alongs right alongside tawdry ballads, along with the between-song storytelling that has long been a fixture at Bobby Bare shows, this one is hands down the tonk release of the year.

Soul Asylum – Hurry Up and Wait

No, this is certainly not “Runaway Train” Soul Asylum and it has been 28 years since Grave Dancer’s Union came out, but does it really matter. As long as Dave Pirner is involved, here he is the only original band member, we are ears all in. Rocking it up on “Got It Pretty Good” and going a bit lower and slower on “Social Butterfly” this record stops short of being excellent but is uniquely satisfying in its own right as long as you consider this a Dave Pirner solo effort and not a Soul Asylum album.

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.

Datura4 – West Coast Highway Cosmic

The band, named after a two-lane blacktop along the coast of Western Australia is a Blues Rock boogie band that sorts of floats between The Black Keys and Deep Purple with Charlie Musselwhite joining them for the ride.

Described as Garagey but not Grungey, Power Poppy but not cheesy, muddy but not sludgy, Blues respecting but not formulaic, trippy but not spacey this is a band that seems to be carving out their own musical niche.

The title track has a certain “Highway Star” feel to it complete with Hammond B-3 and the extended instrumental interludes on most of these songs would make this record and epic road trip soundscape. The songs “Give” and “You’re the Only One” are, to our ears, pound for pound two of the best that have heard all year.

And yes, Datura4 is one of our favorite new bands.

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (April 10, 2020)

There seems to be a bit of focus in the records this week as we get a new record from the Strokes a politically charged release courtesy of Eliza Gilkyson with one of the best version of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s-A-Gonna Fall” you likely have heard in quite a while, and to add a touch of class to the proceedings The Dream Syndicate has delivered a tidy five-song 58 minute set of Psychedelic Rock. Here are five nuggets that we particularly are digging this week.

John Anderson – Years

This album came to be after Easy Sound major-domo Dan Auerbach randomly called John a few years back just from the standpoint of a fan reaching out to say hello to one of his musical heroes. A friendship developed that has now resulted in the two artists collaborating on a set of Country tinged Americana songs that walk the line between 80’s country crooner and present-day singer-songwriter Country Rock. No one song really stands out here, but that is pretty much the point. There is meandering pleasantness that has always been inherent in Anderson’s voice that has a calming effect that sort of washes over the listener. Feel free to skip the vibe killing Blake Shelton guest appearance on “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone.”

Webb Wilder – Night Without Love

Still refusing to be pigeonholed, Webb Wilder has released another stellar record full of whimsical songwriting and Honky Tonk pathos. His diverse influences and exceptional talent take you on a journey from the way-back ’70’s all the way to present-day in the blink of an ear. The cover of “High Heel Sneakers” featured on this one is worth the price of admission alone.

Jackie Lynn – Jacqueline

Jackie Lynn is Haley Fohr’s side-piece band and, believe it or not, this record is the travelogue of the co-conspirator of a multi-million-dollar cocaine business, on the run after making a hasty retreat from Chicago. But trust us, It’s cool. The record shimmers with celebratory horns, wicked guitars, and space-disco anthems. “Shugar Water” is a perfect Glam-shuffle soundtrack to a cross-country escape, “Diamond Glue” is a nice slice of disco-funk served a bit on the greasy side and “Short Black Dress” has a certain Scott Walker grandiose element to it. All in all, this is pretty much a perfect record for those ears that are looking for a bit of an escape.

Pokey LaFarge – Rock Bottom Rhapsody

Pokey LaFarge has spent the last couple of years literally reinventing himself. Having moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles where he found Christianity and developed a passion for working with the homeless while at the same time dealing with almost life-crippling depression. Now, with this record LaFarge seemingly has come out the other side in fine fashion. “End of My Rope” could have been a long lost Travelling Wilbury’s single and the record in its entirety seems to celebrate the crooners, Elvis, Roy Orbison, and even Bob Dylan. Good stuff indeed.

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.

Five Cool Ones – Five New Albums Released This Week (April 3, 2020)

After a somewhat tepid week on the new release front, we are rolling towards the summer musical peak in a righteous form with some really cool under the radar releases to savor. Parrotheads rejoice with a new Jimmy Buffet song, Down at the Lah Deh Dah”, a song that sounds like every other Jimmy Buffet song you have ever heard, Rock is the New Roll favorites Chicano Batman has a new single out, and Even The Monkees are represented with a live set. Here are five new releases that we particularly dig.

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.

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.

Logan Ledger – Logan Ledger

After just a cursory listen of Logan Ledger’s fine debut self-titled it will come as no surprise that he grew up on a steady diet of Roy Orbison. Picking up where Orville Peck, 2019’s breakout Country-Noir star left off, Ledger combines Hank Sr. Lyrics with Scott Walker by way of Chris Isaak vocal stylings on this mood-setting record that will surely be in consideration for one of the best debut records of the year. Produced by T-Bone Burnett with songs like “Nobody Knows” that is one of the best last call songs we have heard in a while along with “The Lights of San Francisco,” a song from the perspective of a prisoner on Alcatraz island, Logan Ledger is announcing himself as a songwriter to be reckoned with.

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.

James Elkington – Ever Roving Eye

Three listens in, this one is definitely a grower with new and exciting nuances discovered with each subsequent spin. Recorded at Wilco’s loft studio in Chicago with Spencer Tweedy on drums the Psychedelic shapes and Pastoral-Folk tenor of the record will bring to mind guitar hero Richard Thompson.