Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (April 30, 2021)

Ears-down the best week of the year so far on the music front, things are heating up. The fantastic B-52 imaging band Hayley and the Crushers are scorching the earth.

RISTN favorite ’70s vintage rock band The Sheepdogs are starting to come out of hibernation having released a fine Bay City Rollers worthy single with “Keep On Loving You.”

And Yola is primed and ready to go wearing her diamond-studded shoes in advance of her new album.

Here are five particular ear-gems we are grooving to this week.

Teenage Fanclub – Endless Arcade 

With their 11th album and first without founding member Gerard Love, Teenage Fanclub may have dialed down the jangle from their Jangle-Pop formula just a tad, but fear not, the melodic maestros are still very much at the top of their game.

From the Folk-Rock Psychedelic splendor of “Come To Me” to the Zombies evoking gang harmonies on “Back In The Day” Endless Arcade is a relaxed and inspiring listen. “The Sun won’t Shine on Me” bridges the gap between Vintage-Pop and contemporary issues-based songwriting quite nicely and “Living With You” plays the Byrds formula and signature Fanclub sound to perfection.

Spend some time with this one then drift your ears back to the early classic albums Songs From Northern Britain, Bandwagonesque, or even Thirteen. Sure, they may have been gone for a while, but with this new record, it’s like they never left.

The Coral – Coral Island

Should you not be familiar with The Coral and their oeuvre, get with the plan, man. The band pretty much mines all of the genres that your ears hold sacred including but not limited to Garage Rock, AOR, Psychedelia, Post-Punk, and Power Pop. A semi-concept album based on the band’s collective experiences at various seaside resorts on the West coast of England, the songs on Coral Island weave together beautifully with brief spoken-word interludes that serve to give Coral Island a real first-person point in time feel.

Lengthy but never burdensome, at 54 minutes the sheer brilliance and texture changes presented on the record will keep your rapt attention. Highlights are many including the carnival game atmosphere of “Golden Age,” the Melanchology sadness of “Old Photographs,” and the welcome to the pleasuredome optimism of “Change Your Mind.”

Three listens in with this record I can’t help thinking it would be cool to visit the seaside resorts brought to life in these brilliant character studies. But somehow, much like Playland at the Beach in San Francisco, The Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, or N.Y.’s Coney Island, the myth is more than likely vastly more satisfying than the reality.

Or, as Scotland’s own Stevie Dal says more eloquently than I ever could:

This one has taken me by surprise. The Corals new album is an utter gem, I never knew they had it in them but there you go, it’s a funny old world.

It’s a double album, a concept album, set in an old rundown seaside town, washed up and all but abandoned by the tourists, populated only by the characters left behind as the young ‘uns bailed out. Memories and nostalgia, lost and broken dreams, first and unrequited loves etc etc.

This is the band’s spin on classic albums like Ogdens Nut Gone Flake ( Small Faces) and Village Green Preservation Society ( The Kinks) and, while obviously not at that level, it’s a brave and wonderful attempt. If you love effortless guitar pop and glorious tunes you will be onboard. A serious contender for Album of 2021.

All of the above having been said this might be the leader in the clubhouse for best album of the year.

Grave Flowers Bongo Band – Strength of Spring

The riff-laden epicness of this Psychedelic Rock album from Grave Flowers Bongo Band was in heavy rotation at Rock is the New Roll H.Q. this week. “Animal Lord” almost blew the roof off the building with its Black Sabbath if fronted by Marc Bolan brilliance, and the lumbering groove of “Smile” will bust your chest open and make you feel alive. 

Gabe Flores weaves his guitar around this set of songs walking that melodic in a hurricane line quite nicely never amping it up to overkill territory while at the same time laying the cosmic pedal down fully to the ground. “Down Man” is like riding an out-of-control rickety wooden roller coaster and “Outer Bongolia” is a freaked-out instrumental that would have fit right in at Austin Powers’ bachelor party.

Dropkick Murphy’s – Turn Up That Dial

Proving that these guys aren’t just a band to be enjoyed on St. Patrick’s day, The Murphy’s perform as advertised and turn up the dial with their latest set of rabble-rousing anthems with their latest, Turn Up The Dial.

The “Queen of Suffolk County” pays tribute to wild women everywhere and is worth the price of admission alone, and you will automatically become Irish after a listen or two of the title track. And, just to prove they can do it, the band slows things down somewhat less than ear-splitting on the poignant and beautiful “I Wish You Were Here.”

If you don’t feel alive after listening to this record at close to full volume then you are more than likely already dead.

No-No Boy – 1975

No-No Boy is the latest nome de plume for multimedia artist and Asian studies scholar Julian Saporiti. On this record, Saporiti explores WW-2 Asian American internment sites, present-day immigrant detention facilities, and refugee camps.

While the entire set is thought-provoking, the centerpiece here is the song “The Best God Damn Band in Wyoming.” Inspired by a visit to a museum in his home state of Wyoming where he noticed a picture of a large swing band with Asian faces much like his staring at him from behind a fenced-in prison yard. After getting over the stunning visual of this unicorn-worthy picture of an Asian swing band that here-to-fore he never knew existed, No-No Boy proceeded to learn more about the inspirational photograph. As it turns out, the photo is of a group of Asian Americans that were interred in a detention camp in Wyoming during the Second World War. Forming a collective of like-minded musicians behind prison walls the swing band would play for local proms and VFW halls in the area and then were returned to prison once the performance was over. 

No-No Boy approaches his subject matter using a template of Traditional Folk, Rock, and Americana to take us on a journey that is not always comfortable, but always revelatory.

What We’re Listening To Wednesday (April 21, 2021)

With a lot of feathers ruffling and playlist debates at Rock is the new Roll HQ, despite our recent Rock jag we have been into we have been able to come up with a consensus this week. As such, here are our jams for “what we’re listening to Wednesday.”

John Hiatt and The Jerry Douglas Band – Long Black Electric Cadillac

The song, not to be confused with the 1958 song “Long Black Cadillac”, is updated for the modern age with a Cadillac that can go 1,000 miles on a single charge. John Hiatt’s latest version with The Jerry Douglas Band will set you up quite nicely as a centerpiece in your next road trip playlist. Hiatt’s new record Leftover Feelings comes out on May 21st.

GospelbeacH – Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’

This one popped up while we were going down a rabbit hole of Good Lovin’ versions from the Rascals. While we did come up with an extraordinarily excellent version by The Grateful Dead from the album Shakedown Street

the real jewel of a find here was this pseudo-cover, “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” the ’60’s song from Bubble Gum rockers Crazy Elephant performed by RITNR hall of Famers GospelbeacH.

Lee Aaron – Whatcha Do To My Body

The latest book circulating among the members of the Rock is the New Roll book club is Nothin’ But A Good Time, which chronicles the rise and the post-Grunge fall of Sunset Strip Rock and Roll. The discussions about the book led us to current bands that bring the energy and vibe of the Hair Metal days and are playing the Raunch and Roll of the Sunset Strip forward. Rocker Lee Aaron, a bit more amped-up version of Suzi Quatro, fits the bill quite nicely and is a staple on Rock and Roll Saturday nights in The Falcon’s Nest.

The Legal Matters – Light Up The Sky

The first single to be released in advance of their soon-to-be-released third album, Chapter 3, set to be released on May 30. The record is pretty much pre-ordained to be a stunner if this Pet Sounds worthy cut is any indication.

  

Rainmakers – Ashes

Growing up in the same waters that spawned Samantha Fish and The Temperance Movement, British rockers Rainmakers have a mid-era Zeppelin vibe to them along with a Bad Company essence wafting in the air as well. We have our ears tuned to these guys and are convinced that glory days are ahead for this band. “Ashes is a straight-ahead Blues-Rocker.

And, “Forgotten Child” is a Paul Rodgers fronting Led Zeppelin epic of a tune.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (April 16, 2021)

Of course, as we all know, everything is just a placeholder until the new Teenage Fanclub record comes out in very short order. In the meantime, there is an ear-load of tasty one-off nuggets to savor.

The Black Keys have one in the hopper ready to see the light of day in a couple of months announcing itself with the single and video “Crawling Kingsnake” filmed at Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ Blue Front Cafe, the oldest juke joint in America.

Briston Maroney, with his cross of T Rex and Pavement vibes, has released a single called “Bottle Rocket” and continues to show that he is a worthy candidate on our “ones to watch for” list.

And, Sasami an artist that has an actual French Horn degree, is out with her video of “Not The Time.” 

And, if all of the above is not all, here are five really good records released this week.

The Brother Brothers – Calla Lilly

New York-based identical twins Adam and David Moss are one of the closest things your ears will be able to find to Simon and Garfunkel and their particular brand of apple skin-tight harmonies. Their sophomore record, Calla, Lily, mixes smooth Indie-Folk on the opener “On The Road Again,” no, not that one, showing their versatility with the Appalachian-style folk-inspired “The Road Runner Song” and deal from the deck straight-ahead Everly Brothers on “Seein’ Double.”

With a bit of Donovan DNA sprinkled here, and Don Mclean’s spirit there the mood and texture differences from song to song on the record make this one an engaging listen that should have legs on your listening rotation that will please your ears for months to come.

West of Texas – Heartaches, Hangovers & Honky Tonks

Pull on your boots, tighten up your stetson, leave your spurs at home, and head to the Honky Tonk courtesy of the best Western swing record of the year. The Willie by way of Asleep at the Wheel opener “My Whiskey Life” is a perfect introduction to a band that makes no bones about it. They like both kinds of music, Country and Western.

The entire spectrum of country song fare is represented here, Lovin’ with “Fixin’ to Love You,” Leavin’ on “The Cost of Lovin’ You,” and Livin’ representing on “Dead End Jobs Blues.” And, of course, there is plenty of Cheatin’, Drinkin’, and Hurtin’ going on just ask the closer “Cheatin’, Drinkin’ Hurtin’ Song.”

London Grammar – Californian Soil

If you miss The Eurythmic and Florence and the Machine, Californian Soil courtesy of London Trio London Grammar just might be your latest jam. Sparse, Electo-Pop of the highest order, it is the otherworldly vocals of Hanna Reid that carries the day with this band. 

“Lose Your Head” in an epic of a song that will lose you in the groove, “How Does It Feel” is Adele meets Annie and is one of the more straightforward pop songs on the record, and the title track, “Californian Soil” is simply a haunting masterpiece.

Simply put, this is a stunning record.

Jesse Aycock – Steps

A card-carrying member of Todd Snider’s side-piece band The Hard Working Americans, Jesse Aycock combines blissful Laurel Canyon Rock with Tulsa-inspired J.J. Cale Roots rock into a blend that will have you reaching for your old Whiskeytown records.

“Wreck Like You” has a bit of George Harrison sound to it, the opener “Shed The Light” could have been a Chris Robinson Brotherhood single, and the laid-back groove of “Roll South” does J.J. Cale proud. 

“High Hopes” Rocks it up into Tom Petty territory, and the closing “Woodland Park” will most definitely leave you in a feel-good mood. Todd Snider is great, but Jesse Aycock with this new record is right on his heels.

Imelda May – 11 Past The Hour

Full disclosure, while we like this latest incarnation of Scotland’s own Imelda May that she brings out on her latest 11 Past The Hour, we prefer the Eddie Cochran Wanda Jackson version of Imelda versus the Sheryl Crow AOR sound that we get here. Even the presence of Ronnie Wood and Noel Gallagher is good but doesn’t throttle up the coolness meter like her version of “Tainted Love” or the song “Johnny Boom Boom” Does. 

That is not to say this is not a good record, in fact, quite the opposite, it is really good. “Made To Love” is a highly polished Pretenders style track, the title song is a fine bit of late-night noir, and “What We Did in the Dark” is a propulsive highly addictive duet with sometimes Arctic Monkey Miles Kane that will be perfect for the festival circuit should festivals ever be a thing again.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (March 26, 2021)

There is a lot to love on the musical landscape this week with highly excellent new music from the T-Rex Mojo of the band GospelbeacH and their song “Albatross Baby”

The mellow Steely Dan inspired smoothness from Moon City Masters and their song “Where You Wanna Run To.”

And, Rock is the New Roll favorite rockers Starcrawlers treat the ears with a live song direct from The Roxy in L.A. with “You Dig Yours” 

Along with all of the above goodness here are five albums we are digging this week.

The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs – One More Drink

Non-apologetic no holds barred Rock and Roll for the masses. Their first album in over 20 years after reuniting in 2014, this record is a cocktail of Power Pop, New Wave, Punk, and Heavy Metal served on the rocks with a dose of Cheap Trick thrown in for good measure, most notably on the title song that is a tribute to Dramarama’s “Last Cigarette.” 

 “We Are The Ones (We’ve Been Waiting For)” is as good as a Rock and Roll anthem can get. And, “Rumblin’ Down” is an off the rails don’t drive 55 scorcher.

Dr. Lonnie Smith – Breathe

With sublime vocal assistance from Iggy Pop on the Santana inspired opener “Why Can’t We Live Together” as well as an over the top-notch cover of “Sunshine Superman,” the king of the Hammond B-3 grooves his way through a set of tunes that would fit in quite nicely at Austin Powers’ bachelor party. Released on the Blue Note record label, Here, Smith has recaptured the energy of his early recordings in the capable hands of producer and Blue Note major-domo Don Was. The breezy “Bright Eyes” was recorded live at The Jazz Standard in New York City and with the snappy “Epistrophy” the organ maestro pays tribute to Thelonius Monk.

The Dust Coda – Mojo Skyline

This one might just be the Classic Rock-influenced album of the year, and it’s only March. Channeling Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, and Humble Pie in almost equal measures, “Dream Alright” has a down-home Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe, “Bourbon Pouring” could have easily been a Faces song, and the closer, “It’s A Jam” would have fit perfectly on any of the early Nazareth albums. 

From the opening lick to the last riff if you are a fan of Rock in general and ’70s Rock in particular, Mojo Skyline is most definitely your jam and will be for the rest of the year.

Badfinger – No Matter What (Revisiting The Hits)

Having released the excellent album Be True To Yourself in 2020, Joey Molland, the last living member of Badfinger, is back with an immensely entertaining set of Badfinger songs. Calling in favors from his famous friends, every song sparkles, and even the deeper cuts such as “Love Is Gonna Come at Last” are brought to brilliant life courtesy of the side-men involved, Rick Springfield case in point on this one. Highlights are many, most notably Todd Rundgren’s turn on “Without You” a song that could have been written by the angels for Todd to sing, along with Matthew Sweet, of course, on the Power Pop masterpiece “Baby Blue.” Rick Wakeman lends some piano chords to “Come & Get It” and legendary slide-man Sonny Landreth completely owns “Suitcase.” 

Do your ears a solid and check this record out. Then, go back and go back and listen to the original library from a band that may just be one of the most underrated of all time.

Brigitte DeMeyer – Seeker

Not new to the scene having relocated from Nashville to California after a series of personal travails, Brigitte DeMeer seems to have reinvented herself with her latest record, Seeker. With a vibe that brings to the ear, Rikki Lee Jones and Sheryl Crow, the songs are mostly low-key in all the best of ways with standouts “Wishbone” and the slow burn of “Louisiana” as must-hears. the over-arching thing of keeping the soul moving forward and overcoming obstacles is prevalent throughout most notably on the title track along “Roots and Wings and Bones,” a song that celebrates having the courage to make healthy changes in your life.

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.”

 

Friday Night Fever – Our First five Jams of 2021

The vibe is an optimistic one for 2021 and here at Rock is the New Roll we are ready to go, ears-up, in search of music we all should be listening to.

The Midnight Callers – Red Letter Glow

Putting the power in Power Pop, the elegantly monikered Midnight Callers blend Power Pop and late 70’s Pub Rock bringing to the ear Rockpile or early Cheap Trick on their maiden voyage of a record, Red Letter Glow. The vocals in front of the mix are great particularly on the bands’ made it their own tribute to Bill Withers with “Use Me,” and “41 Miles to Roscoe” is on the shortlist for the driving song of the year that would have been played on repeat during that road trip you didn’t get to take last year. “I’m tired of the smokin’ and the drinkin’ and the women, I just want to be your man.”

If you are a fan of Mid-era Kinks, Cheap Trick, The Romantics, The Sweet, or even going back to early Slade these guys should be your jam and are definitely worthy of early placement on your “ones to watch” list.

Mike Viola – Creeper

In a year where the artistic community was particularly hit with the passing of musicians that still had a lot of their heart left to share with us, Mike Viola pays tribute to Fountains of Wayne frontman Adam Schlesinger. His record, Godmuffin, takes a poignant look at the past and sets a wait and see tone for the future.

Drake Bell – The Lost Album

Definitely living up to the interesting back story, Drake Bell’s latest, The Lost Album, despite the slight Yacht-Rock glossy sheen is definitely an ear-worthy throw-back sort of listen. After releasing a highly excellent debut record with It’s Only Time way back in 2007 Bell began work on his follow-up effort only to lose all of the material when he lost the hard drive that contained all of his demos. Recently, he found the drive, polished up the songs, and put a contemporary sheen on songs that at the end of the day seem to be aging very well indeed.

Whether he is rhyming Leonardo with “making out with Jared Leto” like he does on his ode to the late-night party hook-up on “The Party”

or, channeling the spirit of Harry Nilsson most effectively on “Sail On” along with the spirit of Boz Scaggs on “Nowhere Else To Go” the vintage throw-back wave of musical nostalgia we are treated to with this record provides a much-needed balm for the soul.

Hot Breath – Bad Feeling

Ripping it up and burning your house party to the ground, these young Gothenburg whippersnappers play it fast, rock it loud, and deliver the goods so impeccably they could have headlined the Goose Lake Rock rock festival back in 1976 blowing away those other Detroit bands The Stooges and MC-5 in the process. There is already an E.P. out but keep your ears peeled for a proper record, Rubbery Lips set to be released in April 2021.

Blackfield – For The Music

When Contemporary-Prog artist Steven Wilson is involved in a project the results are typically intriguing if not spectacular, and here his collaboration with the band Blackfield and Israeli star Aviv Geffen is next-level cool. “For The Music” is the star on the record but don’t sleep on the rest of the Summers Gone album. It’s the go-to Progressive Rock listen for those that think they don’t like Progressive Rock.

Rock is the New Roll Best 100 Albums of 2020 (51-75)

075. Matt Costa – Yellow Coat

There is a pleasant David Gray vibe wafting in the air on Matt Costa’s refreshingly cool new record, Yellow Coat, his second for Dangerbird Records and sixth overall. Highlights abound, most notably on the reverb-drenched and Motown inspired Savannah and the Sam Cook inspired “Slow.” Even on the slower more thoughtful tunes such as “Last Love Song,” a song that could rightly have been a long lost Elliott Smith outtake, Costa manages to shine. With every song carrying a slightly different DNA, this is a record that rewards multiple visits to the well.

074. Elizabeth Cook – Aftermath

Make no mistake, despite her highly popular side-piece gig as a radio host for Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country, Elizabeth Cook, at her core, is pure Rock and Roll. Produced by Butch Walker, her latest effort, Aftermath, is brash, bold, and propulsive in places and lean and mean in others. The opener “Bones” announces her presence in bombastic style, and the closer, “Mary, The Submissive Years” is a talk-sing nod to the late great John Prine. Thank you, Sturgill Simpson, for breaking down the Country, Rock and Roll barriers.

073. Gasoline Lollipops – All The Misery Money Can Buy

Come for the cool band name, stay for thor ultra-cool self-glossed genre, Blending Rock and Roll. From the opener and title track “All The Misery Money Can Buy” with the driving rhythm and Muscle Shoals inspired background singers it is clear that this band is not fooling around. When a sharp turn is taken on “Dying Young” with its “Tuesday’s Gone Feel” and the diversity of the singer is on full display as frontman Clay Rose goes all Raul Malo on the song, the die is cast for us calling shotgun for the rest of the road trip. Rockabilly, Roots Rock, Americana, Jam, this Boulder, Co. based band covers all of the cool bases your ears know and love. This new Gas Pops record is already on heavy rotation here in the offices of Rock is the new Roll.

072. Cary Morin – Dockside Saints

Exploring the musical landscape on the dirty side of roots-based Americana this eclectic guitar-slinger will have you riveted from the opening bell with “Nobody Gotta Know” a voodoo blend of Cajun, Swamp Rock, with hints of Bluegrass that seemingly shares some DNA with Dr. John. With Exception to the Rule” Cory’s sensitive side comes out along with his ear-friendly voice, and on “Prisoner” and on “Tonight” we find out just how the guitar Gods have blessed this exciting new talent.

071. Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring

Much like the Dion record from last month Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest, and arguably his best record,  Co-Starring features many of his famous friends on an album that features no-holds-barred storytelling and signature rhymes that can be found nowhere else. Where else are you going to find out that a 392 scat backed Dodge Charger rhymes with a tattoo that says ‘free Sonny Barger’.

The album features Ringo Starr, Don Was, Joe Walsh, Chris Robinson, Aaron Lee Tasjan, The Cadillac Three, Pam Tillis, Paula Nelson, Elizabeth Cook, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, Ashley McBryde, Larkin Poe, Peter Rowan, and Ronnie Dunn.

070. Kai Danzberg: Rockshow

If you have ever pondered what sort of record Freddy Mercury might be putting out if he were alive today, the question may have been asked and answered with Kai Danberg’s Pop-fastic new album Rockshow. Sort of a magical sandbox of E.L.O, Queen, and Jellyfish with virtually every song on this record stands out as a Power Pop masterclass.

Stand-Out Song: Rockshow

069. Sonny Landreth – Blacktop Run

Besides having the best Eastbound and down the driving song of the year, this one is a swiss army knife of a record with surprises around every corner. “Love Dance With Me” is a Dire Straits worthy shuffle of an instrumental, while “Groovy Goddess” with the ’70s organ riffage driving the song takes the proceedings to the next level of slide guitar gutsy madness.”Somebody Gotta Make A Move” could have been on an early Eric Clapton record.

068. The Bobby Lees – Skin Suit

Commercial, they are not, and this is precisely why The Bobby Lees is set to take over the Garage-Rock hip band of the moment mantle. Taylor made for CBGB’s these guys virtually command you to notice them. Part Iggy Pop and a whole lot of Siouxie Sioux front-woman Sam Quartin commands the stage with a presence we have not seen or heard in quite some time. There is not much flower and a whole lot of power emanating from this band of twenty-somethings from Woodstock, N.Y.

067. Charlie Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times

With this, his 8th album since his 2015 debut,  and his second already this year, to say that Charlie Crockett is on a bit of a roll would be like saying Eric Clapton is good at that guitar thing. Of course, captain obvious. And what a stellar album it is. Expertly walking the tightrope between Classic Country and Americana-Roots music, there is nothing about this old soul crooner that seems past its born-on date. Sure there is a bit of good old countrypolitan in many of the tunes presented here, most notably with the aptly named “The Man That Time Forgot,” but it is on the take me to the honky numbers “Run Horse Run” and “Paint it Blue” where this record really earns it spurs.

066. Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death

A Heros Death, the sophomore album from Fontaines D.C. may not be as spot-on dangerous as Dogrel, it is still, none the less, an inspiring record that deserves to be in your record collection. Starting from the opener “I Don’t Belong,” a mid-tempo anthem that highlights the gritty vocal of Grian Chatten, the stage is set for this Dublin Band, sort of a Post-Punk U2, to opine on their world view over 11 tracks of intermittent rage and corresponding thoughtfulness.

“You Said” has a bit of a Velvet Underground feel to it, while the title track certainly shares some DNA with Iggy Pop and the Stooges and might just be the most important song to be released this year.

065. Mojo Buford – Mojo Workin’

The classic Chicago blues is bleeding from every ounce of Mojo Buford’s fine new record, Mojo Workin’. Having the distinction of being the only harmonica player to have played with Muddy Waters in the 1950s, ’60s,’70s, and ’80s Mojo Buford was a Blues staple from Memphis to Chicago before his death in 2011. Originally recorded in 1969 this reissue courtesy of Sundazed records features many of his songs included in his live repertoire including “Got My Mojo Working,”  the song that delivered his nickname when every night he would get requests to play the famous Muddy Waters tune.

The sound quality on this release is excellent and Mojo’s self-penned songs stand equally as tall beside Otis Spann’s “Blues Is Botheration” and Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Help Me.

If harmonica-blues is your jam, you can’t get much better than this one.

064. Ted Russell Kamp – Down In The Den

Despite being one of the more prolific artists on the Americana scene with 12 records in the last 15 years, Ted Russell Kamp is largely an unknown entity in the music scene unless you are a hardcore fan. And, that is really a shame. Having played bass for many of the top artists including Shooter Jennings, Whitey Morgan, Jessi Colter as well as many others, with the release of his latest, Down in the Den, he may have just altered his history from sideman to top of the marquis.

Alternating country-rockers as displayed on the opener, “Home Sweet Hollywood,” a duet with Shooter Jennings, Dixieland on “Hobo Nickel,” and downright balladry as he fights life on the road while trying to keep a relationship going like he does on “Stick With Me” there are no miss-steps on this record.  With a voice that is honest and open with a timbre that as ear-pleasing as it can get, the inherent songcraft and general spirit of this album will bring to mind the last couple of Chris Stapelton records.

063. Liza Anne – Bad Vacation

Bad Vacation is an interesting moniker for an album during these times when pretty much any vacation is a good vacation, but in this case, in the capable hands of Liza Anne, it seems appropriate. On her previous record, Fine But Dying, and in periodicals and various interviews she has given her battle with mental illness has been bravely chronicled in her art. And here she certainly makes no exception especially so on “I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist” and “This Chaos, That Feeling” where the loss of a relationship seems to have her spinning in her own mind. Stylistically veering down the track with stops at Power Pop, Indie Rock, Art Rock, and Emo stations, this is a diverse and powerful record that will have you considering your own place in the world.

062. MisterWives – SUPERBLOOM

Once you are hit with the sonic U2 on steroids opening blast, “The End,” curiously placed at the beginning of the record, and Mandy Lee’s vocal kicks in with her Chrissie Hynde meets Stevie Nicks vibe, all bets are off and you will be hooked and ready to listen to the rest of the record. Next up, “Ghost” raises the stakes with another anthemic festival-worthy gem, and things only get better from there. “whywhywhy” slows the tempo down, but only just slightly, until mid-song when a chorus kicks in that would make ABBA rethink their career choice.

Mid-record the soaring pace slows a bit with a couple of ballads thrown on top of the fire but by the time “over the rainbow” rolls around the dancing fiesta is back and in full force. Once you get down to the end of the record, the title track is presented in all its Gospel glory and the glorious ride is about to come to an end. If soulful horns, gorgeous melodies,  gospel-harmonies, catchy hooks, and soulful festival-ready anthems are your jams, then this record will have you fully ensconced in your happy place.

061. Seasick Steve – Love & Peace

It has been a minute now that Seasick Steve has been on the scene entertaining us with his raw and powerful performances, and we as humans are all the better for it. Self-produced, Love & Peace delivers a confident set of Howlin’ Wolf by the way of White Stripes gnarly blues for the common man. The opener “Love & Peace” is a tour-de-force call to arms where Seasick practically commands the rest of us to stop the hatred and get back to love and peace. “Regular Man” is a solid blues stomper where Steve touches around the fringes of the mystery of his backstory, and Carni Days is an outright ballad describing the not so glamourous life of a traveling carnival worker.

Seasick Steve is one of us. Just a regular guy with an unusual gift to be able to touch our hearts and cleanse our soul.

060. S.G. Goodman – Old Time Feeling

The first thing that hits you between the ears is the raw emotion emanating from S.G. Goodman, one of the fresh new voices on the Americana scene. Second up, front and center, is the depth of the songwriting, most definitely trending into Jason Isbell territory. And finally, with a fully formed picture painted with assistance from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James on production duties, there is the realization that this sonic blend of dusty Kentucky back roads Americana is one of the best records we have heard all year. Just listen to the swamp-noir of “The Way I Talk” and the honesty dripping pathos of “Burn Down the City” and tell us we’re wrong.

059. Texas Gentlemen – Floor It!!!

It should come as no surprise that the Texas Gentlemen are one cracker-jack of a band since the group was formed by a bunch of session guys who combined probably have played on every Americana record you have listened to over the last five years including in support for George Strait, Paul Cauthen, Kris Kristofferson, Nikki Lane, and Leon Bridges just to name a few. With their musical chops on full display from jump street as it almost seems like they are just warming up on the first two cuts that are pure instrumentals that have sort of a Dixie Land Jazz vibe in places and Broadway show tune dusting in others. A head-scratching way to get things underway, but it works quite well.

Recorded in part at the FAME studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, each track seems to take you on a different musical journey. “Easy Street” will float the mind into Grateful Dead territory, “Hard Road” sounds like vintage Harry Nilsson, while “Skyway Streetcar” has a Burrito Brothers essence wafting in the air. Throw in “Charlie’s House” that could have been written by Bernie Taupin, produced by Gus Dudgeon, and performed by Loggins and Messina and you have a record of eclectic subtle surprises around every corner that very much rewards the listener with each subsequent listen.

058. Pretenders – Hate For Sale

The Pretenders are back, they actually never left, and are better than ever with their first proper record since 2016’s Alone. It takes only one song, Chrissie Hynde has a few things to get off her chest right out of the blocks on the title track, until we are treated on song number two with “The Buzz,” a song that could have been the centerpiece on any of The Pretenders early records. “Lighting Sound” carries the trademark Ska-Influenced rhythms to updated levels, and the rambunctious “I Don’t Want To Stop” is pure CBGB vintage fun.

057. The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers

Aukland, New Zealand based The Beths generate dynamic, propulsive four-part chorus anthems that are tailor-made for the summer festival circuit, if we can ever get back to summer festivals being a thing, that is. Leader and sole Beth in the band Elizabeth Stokes is a twice-nominee for the Taite Prize, New Zealand’s most prestigious music award. This, their sophomore record with its harmony-driven sparkling gems that bring to mind The Pixies, The Breeders with a touch of Go Go’s thrown in for ear-measure should be high up there in your summer listening library.

056. Matt Berry – Phantom Birds

There is a bit of a cosmic cowboy Americana vibe thrown heavily into the mix of Matt Berry’s highly likable new record, Phantom Birds. There are more than a few nods to Gram Parsons, most notably on “Where’s My Love” with a subtle lap steel whispering in the background, and, “You Danced All Night” carries the day. If he keeps putting out material like this Matt Berry may be less known as an actor currently starring in the television series What We Do In The Shadows and become more widely recognized as the great singer-songwriter that he actually is.

055. Babylon Circus – State of Emergency

There is nothing like a French Alternative Rock band to perk the ears and move the feet. Hailing from Lyon, France these polymaths cite their influences as The Clash, Toots & The Maytals, Madness, and The Specials, and it shows on every eclectic track. Singing in both French and English, singer David Baruchel leads his group through the exotic landscapes of Ska, Django Jazz, and Gypsy Swing with enough coolness to cleanse the musical palate and send your ears on a journey to the center of your mind. “Monster” is a special foot moving epic that refers to a monster on the dance floor, and “Les Oiseaux de Passage” will have you almost literally strolling walking down the alleyways of Paris in the ’30s. This is mind-escaping stuff.

054. Kurt Baker – After Party

If Power Pop is your jam, and if it’s not you don’t have enough fun in your life, then the new Kurt Baker opus, After Party, needs to be your new weekend guilty pleasure. Taking a break from the more Garage/Nuggets intensity of his Kurt Baker Combo, a Little Steven’s Underground Garage perennial favorite, for a more Jangle Pop sound that brings to mind Elvis Costello of the current vintage and the later day fare of Greg Kihn, The Raspberries, and maybe even Marshall Crenshaw. “Wandering Eyes” is pure EC “Watching The Detectives” energy, “She Don’t Really Love You” is a little ramshackle in the Replacements mode, and the Closer “Outta Site” even has a unique “Jessie’s Girl” vibe to it. Play this one twice and all of the COVID wax will be blown out of your ears and you will be in a better headspace.

053. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King

If ever there was a record perfectly suited to spinning with your feet up, a fire roaring with a tumbler of fine whiskey firmly in hand, this would be that record in a perfect place at exactly the right time. Recorded at his studio loft in Chicago and written over a span of 14 days in what became one song everyday writing sessions, this Tweedy solo album started out as a Country record that eventually ended up to be a universal balm to help to heal whatever might be troubling you. “Even I Can See” sounds like a long lost Townes Van Zant anthem, “Save It For Me” has a Dylan by way of Bright Eyes pallor to it, and the title track “Love Is King” pretty much says it all. You may not know it just yet, but you really need this record right now in your life.

052. Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern

This one is going to be a candidate for the end of the year best-of lists, for sure. From the opening salvo “We Were Alright” where the song “Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” is namechecked, it is clear why this was the last artist that John Prine signed to his Oh Boy record label.

A hard-worn semi-overnight success McKinley was discovered by Oh Boy record major-domo Jody Whelan after seeing him play the High Watt in Nashville where he was subsequently introduced to John Prine. When you combine his Appalachian drawl of a voice, his age-weary experience at age 40 along with his detailed minds-eye songwriting talent, it is clear that the torch is well passed.

051. The Killers – Imploding The Mirage

Much like Vampire Weekend Las Vegas’ own The Killers seem to go away and return just at the time that we really need them most. Bright, bouncy, anthemic, it’s all here “Mr. Brightside” style. The synths are absolutely soaring and on the Springsteen worthy “My Own Soul’s Warning” you know immediately that the boys are back in town. There is not a dud to be found here, and the collaborations with k.d. Lang on “Lightning Fields” and with Weyes Blood on “My God” come out of left field and are both utterly brilliant. Good, bordering on great and just maybe the album of the year so far.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (November 20, 2020)

We do the work so you don’t have to. Despite the dreaded Christmas releases barraging our eardrums, there were a lot of tasty musical morsels to hit our ears this week. The new (Non-Christmas) record from Garth Brooks is actually pretty good, there is a really cool set of songs from the Elvis in Memphis sessions that was just released, and for the Jimi Hendrix completist there is yet another record out, Live In Maui.

Land Del Rey has released a really cool Pandemic video with a cover of Gershwin’s “Summertime.”

Roger Daltry must be working on a project as he just hours ago released a live solo video of “Behind Blue Eyes.”

And, the fantastic Jellyfish spin-off band The Lickerish Quartet is out front and center with a new single “Snollygoster Goon,” which is a sight for sore ears.

Here are five albums catching our ear-tention this week.

Larkin Poe – Kindred Spirits

The only thing better than being treated to a new record from Larkin Poe featuring the Poe sisters, the great, great, great grandaughters of Edgar Alan Poe, like we were with Self Made Man earlier in the year, is to be hit with a surprise drop of a new record, Kindred Spirits. And, it’s great. A covers album recorded as only the Blues Rock Poe sisters can deliver, this one features eclectically cool renditions of “Nights In White Satin, “(You’re The) Devil in Disguise,” and “Rockin’ The Free World,” as well as a next-level instant cover classic reading of “In The Air Tonight.” With just an electric guitar and a drum set, this one should be on auto-repeat on your stereo.

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.

Ward Davis – Black Cats and Crows

Often seen, unfairly so, as the younger brother in the pantheon of Outlaw County artists that he shares stages with, a tribe that includes Chris Stapelton, Cody Jinks, and Whitey Morgan, Ward Davis will certainly be heading towards the big time with the release of his latest record, Black Cats and Crows. This, his third album, features Ward’s weathered croon set on a palate of barrel-aged songs that run the gamut from drowned in a whiskey-soaked tear in your beer songs, “Get To Work Whiskey,” to murder ballads with “Sounds of Chains.” The only thing we ask of you Ward is, please, don’t move to Nashville.

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.

Dave Alvin – From an Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings
In this highly cool set of songs, we are treated to the bits, pieces, and scraps of songs from various Dave Alvin records and tribute albums that never made the cut to appear on prior releases. Mixing Alvin originals with eclectically make them his own cover versions, the setlist here includes a stellar version of Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” the slinky groove of ” (Variations on Earl Hooker’s) Guitar Rumba,” and the storytelling ennui of “On the Way Downtown.” This one is a keeper and not just for Dave Alvin completists.