Plenty of choice music that is ear worthy this week as we are closing in on the summer months. Marcus King has us excited for the release of his proper full-length scheduled later in the year with “Hard Working Man,” and yes, there is cowbell.
The Rock band Stinger doesn’t shy away from their love for Bon Scott era AC/DC with the new release, “Rollercoaster.”
And even Willie Nelson joined the party on 4/20, of course, with another single, “Dusty Bottles.”
But don’t stop at those choice nuggets. Here are five new records that are getting plenty of airplay in the offices of Rock is the New Roll H.Q.
Dale Watson – Jukebox Fury
Pound for pound, pompadour for pompadour, Dale Watson remains one of the premier torchbearers for the Honky Tonk. Whether he is on stage during his frequent Memphis residencies, performing at tiny clubs like the Acoustic Cafe in Galveston, Tx, or traveling around the state fair circuit, from his boots to his meticulously coifed mane, he is a classic country artist all the way.
And here, on his latest, Watson pulls in friends Steve Cropper, Linda Gail Lewis, Lorrie Morgan, and the Hillbilly Moon Explosion to help him completely inhabitant a set of eclectically diverse cover songs.
Fans of Rock is the New Roll will likely find the songs presented here in their own personal top ten list. Watson’s take on Seger’s “Turn The Page” is performed close to the vest for sure, but is nonetheless cool, and the world didn’t really need to hear “A Horse With No Name” ever again, but this version falls somewhere to the right of lame.
“The Gambler” is another back in the day over-played earworm that could have been left off. but, his sparkling takes on “For What It’s Worth,” “Treat Her Right,” a song that features Steve Cropper, and the revved-up swamp-boogie of “Polk Salad Annie” makes this one a ride well worth taking.
Railroad Earth – All For The Song
Named after a Jack Kerouac poem, the band Railroad Earth is that rare combination of listenable bluegrass and subtle Americana with a rock and roll spirit. Their first record since 2019’s Railroad Earth: The John Denver Letters, All For The Song was produced by Anders Osbourne and recorded in New Orleans.
With hints of The Band as well as Old Crow Medicine Show overtones, the songs on this set pick up on the Big Easy spirit with blues harmonica, horns, and rock tempos giving the proceedings a feel-good vibe that is a slight departure from the Jam Band syle long-time Railroad fans might be used to.
“Runnin’ Wild” could have been a Tom Petty mid-tempo rocker from the Wildflowers era, “It’s So Good” is a positive song that celebrates the joy and importance of getting together with good friends, and “My Favorite Spot” expounds on the joys of finding your favorite spot, climbing the mountain, and letting the wind blow in your hair while you still have time. And, the title track, “All For the Song,” a tune that strays heavily into Gram Parsons territory, is worth the price of admission alone.
This is a contemplative record that is best digested alone with only your thoughts to keep you company.
Bonnie Raitt – Just Like That…
When you sit down and listen to “Down The Hall,” the last track on Bonnie Raitt’s exquisite new record, you can immediately tell that even going on 50 years since her debut record was released, she hasn’t missed a songwriting beat. A somber ending it may be, but the song, narrated by a murderer that is in jail working in the cancer ward of the prison trying to find meaning to a life well wasted checks every John Prine box and is as good of a song from a writing standpoint that has been released so far this year.
And, the album only gets better from there. A fitting follow-up to Dig in Deep in 2016 and Slipstream going back to 2016, “Livin’ For the Ones” is a Rolling Stones rocker that laments friends gone too soon, “Here Comes Love” has an appealing Rikki Lee Jones vibe about it, and “Love So Strong,” the Toots Hibbert song, follows in the tradition of “Need You Tonight” and “Right Down The Line” as make the song her own, carefully curated covers included on her albums.
Production polished as tight as the skin on an apple, every song flows to the next with the ease of a breezy drive on the autobahn. It is great to hear that Bonnie Raitt has more whiskey in the barrel delivering a bottle that is aged to perfection.
Joshua Headley – Neon Blue
The ghost of the late ’80s and early 90’s Country music is back and his name is Joshua Headley. Evoking the spirit of Alan Jackson, Joe Diffie, Garth Brooks, and King George Strait on his new record Neon Blue, Joshua Headly has made the perfect record for your next pontoon party.
From the Alan Jackson and “Chattahoochie” vibing “Broke Again” and the Garth-supreme nod to the Honky Tonk on the title track “Neon Blue,” all the way to the Randy Travis wink on “Found In A Bar,” the sincerity that comes across on this record is palpable, paying homage to the era instead of simply imitating a genre and a musical time-in-place that has been somewhat maligned in certain circles.
Sure, loyalty for this record will be in direct proportion to how much you listened to Brooks and Dunn, Clint Black, and the rest of the pack back in the day, but don’t overthink things. This is a fun record that will entice you to drag that old turntable out of the garage and start spinning some vinyl.
The Lazy Eyes – SongBook
Proving once again that there is a lot of cool listening to be had down under in Australia, The Lazy Eyes, with their debut album are making their presence known alongside fellow Aussies, Tame Impala, Pond, and King Grizzard & The Lizard Wizzard. Swirling psychedelia is the order of the day with this four-piece that could quite easily get the gig as the house band for Austin Powers’ bachelor party, or as artists in residence at Erik Von Zipper’s beach bar.
Not quite a sit and listen to sort of record, this one will take you places you never thought you wanted to go, but might not want to ever leave. “Hippo” is a whirling dervish slow build psych-jam, “Fuzz Jam” is a woozy Ty Seagall worthy gypsy-dance trance with a Michael Jackson “Beat It” mid-song interlude that sounds strange but actually works, and “Imaginary Girl” could have been a ’60s Small Faces track.
The best of the song-lot here just might be “Starting Over.” The song ear-melds Revolver era Beatles with French Pop in the mold of Air’s Moon Safari L.P. Savor this record in a dark room with plenty of lava lamps and groovy blacklight posters for maximum effect.