If there ever was an ode to meeting in the middle, this is it.
If you are scoring at home our top three ‘rock is not dead’ Rock and Roll bands of the day are Massive Wagons, Starbenders, Wyldlife, and Starbender, not necessarily in that order. Here, Starbenders professes their band-love for each other from their record released earlier in the year, Love Potions.
Echobats is a brand new Quarantine created an all-star band featuring Tony Harnell (TNT), Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake), Eric Levy (Night Ranger), Matt Starr (Mr. Big), and Lames Lomenzo (White Lion.) With soaring vocals and hooks to die for this band won’t be around in a while so let’s enjoy them while we can.
Another one of the late ’80s bands that are resurrecting themselves in the new Millenium in fine fashion. Sun Racket is on September 5th.
Sweet Spirit is one of our favorite new bands. And yes, I know we say that a lot. But, we really mean it this time. This Austin based band that features eclectic Pop and Soul driven by frontwoman Sabrina Ellis and company have delivered a next level record with their latest, Trinidad.
Formerly with the band KAATO, founding members Kurt Lowney and Mika Nuutinen have gone duo, relocated from their native Australia, and formed a new band, The Scent. If this is what we can come to expect from these Nash-Aussian rockers, color our ears perked up and ready to rock and roll.
Oceanator is Brooklyn based Elsie Okusami. In this track from her upcoming record to be released in August, she sums up the current state of affairs quite adeptly. “There’s a crack in the world/And we’re all hanging on, hanging on trying not to fall through the void/Sometimes there’s only so much you can do.”
Here, in the Halls of Rock is the New Roll with Jeremy Wren and Nigel Owl on assignment Bernie Sparrow and I are left to fend for our musical selves. And, anytime Bernie is involved there usually is some sort of hot tub time machine mind-altering time warp going on. So, that is what we are listening to.
By pretty much a long stretch, Fanny, Sorry Runaways, is our favorite Rock and Roll all-girl band. They are universally recognized as the first band with no male members to make an impact opening for the legends of the day from David Bowie to Deep Purple. While only relevant for five years between 1970 and 1975 their five-album output represents the best of 70’s Rock and Roll gender be-damned.
A scorching live band June Millington (guitar, vocals), Jean Millington (bass, vocals), Alice de Buhr (drums, vocals), and Nickey Barclay (keyboards, vocals,) all contributed equally to their live appearances that included spots on The Old Grey Whistle Test, The Sonny and Cher Show, American Bandstand, and this one from The Beat Club, Germany’s most famous band show.
Blackberry Smoke – Keep On Smilin’
Long a fixture of their live shows the Wet Willie Southern Rock classic “Keep On Smiling” resonates perfectly in the hands of this real-deal band that is the perfect mix of The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Here, The Smokers are joined by original Wet Willie vocalist Jimmy Hall on a pretty much perfect version of the song.
The Bubble Puppy – Hot Smoke & Sassafrass
Given that he was born and raised in San Francisco it is somewhat perplexing that Bernie Sparrow loves the Texas Psychedelic band The Bubble Puppy so much. Hello, Bernie!!!!! can you say 13th Floor Elevators. In any case, I best not judge, the song “Hot Smoke & Sassafrass is actually pretty groovy, otherwise, I will be listening alone.
Leon Russell – Asylum Choir
Boom!, Bernie. Take this little shot of tuneage courtesy of Leon Russell and his side-kick Marc Benno. First-rate hook-laden goodness wrapped in a blanket of Psychedelic grooviness that was ahead of its time. The record is Flamin’ Groovies one second, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and doses of The Move everywhere else. Brilliant.
Zephyr – Sail On
The band Zephyr is most notable for putting guitarist Tommy Bolin on the musical map. Their early records featured riff-heavy Rock & Roll that prominently featured vocalist Candy Givens, a singer that was gifted with a back of the barroom voice that would make Janis blush.
I am more of a fan of the bombastic “Sail On” from their debut record.
But Bernie, ever the contrarian and avid cover song worshiper calls for St. James Infirmary every time.
As things show signs of getting back to semi-normal, the release front is full of singles to be savored in advance of future releases. Our friends in Cats In Space are out with the fantastically retro “This Is London,” Classic country-inspired duo My Darling Clementine take us back to yesteryear with “Different Finger,” and even Foster The People do what they do best on the anthemic “Lambs Wool”.
Here are five records we really like this week.
Reckless Kelly – American Jackpot/American Girls
Reckless Kelly is one of those Texas hardscrabble road bands that have traveled the country for years, releasing one stellar record after another, but never really getting the recognition that they deserve. Their latest, an ambitious opus of a double album that includes the album American Jackpot along with an extra album’s worth of songs that were written and recorded during the same sessions. With a bunch of stellar guests including Charlie Sexton, Suzy Bogguss, Gary Clark Jr., Shawn Sahm, and Wade Bowen, If you are a fan of Texan Red Dirt Roots music then this is your jam.
Captain Black Beard – Sonic Forces
First of all, here at Rock is the New Roll we are all suckers for cool band names and this one fits the bill quite nicely. Secondly, when we hear a band that so fully envelopes their retro-ness that your ears must do a double-take to figure out what rock era the record is coming from, then we double down and jump into the pool.
The Band Captain Black Beard fits the bill on both points. The one and really only musical touchpoint here is mid-era Journey with a lead singer that actually sounds like a likable hybrid of their current crooner Arnel Pineda and the old-school Journey stylings of Steve Perry. While technically an AOR, album, “Adult-Oriented Rock'” or, if you prefer, “Album Oriented Rock” if you forced us to assign a genre to this band, don’t let that pigeon-holed description stop you from kicking back and enjoying the record in all its retro glory. There are a lot of high points to savor including extended guitar interludes, combustible driving anthems, and an overall vibe that will take you back to much simpler days.
Juicy Lucy – Juicy Lucy
In a rare appearance of a re-release record in this forum, the new 180 gm vinyl pressing of the debut album by Juicy Lucy is definitely worth a mention. Mostly know for their fast and mean cover version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” included on this record, the reality is that this Blues-Boogie band goes much deeper than that. Originally released in 1969 the album includes a curious blend of harder-edged Blues-Rock, Grateful Dead worthy jams like “Whiskey In My Jar” and a scorched earth version of Chuck Berry’s Nadine that sounds like it could have come from the Sons of Anarchy’s jukebox. Their version of “Built For Speed” with the mid-song greasy sax solo will have your ears lamenting the fact that this band crashed and burned far too soon.
The Sleep Eazys – Easy To Buy Hard To Sell
Imagine in your mind’s-ear that Joe Bonamassa formed a surf guitar band complete with a wonky organ that delivers groovy original tunes along with retro versions of secret spy anthems including “Hawaiian Eye,” and “Bond (On Her Majesties Secret Service)”.
Well, that is exactly what he has done. Inspired by his guitar mentor super-session guitarist Danny Gatton, Joe’s side-piece band The Sleep Eazy’s have released what should be the ears-down instrumental record of the year. It is almost pointless to pick out the highlights here, there are so many, but notable nuggets include the chick-a-boom drenched “Polk Salad Annie,” the ventures inspired take on “Ace of Spades,” and the Les Paul vibing final refrain of “It Was A Very Good Year.” This one is out of left field in all the best of ways.
The Teskey Brothers – Live at the Forum
The Teskey Brothers first arrived on our musical radar in 2019 with their most-excellent release, Run Home Slow. Now, with this live record originally scheduled to be released on record store day 2020, we are treated to intimate live versions of their last couple of records along with a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” Recorded old-school style directly to analog tape capturing during their four night stand in their home town of Melbourne, Australia, the brothers Teskey might be the best Aussie export since Foster’s beer and the boomerang.
This live studio video was made way back in 2009. Known for his eclectic choice of musicians to collaborate with Jack White takes the concept to the next level with Ricky Scaggs and Ashley Monroe joining the party.