The debut record, Lost Friends, from Aussie trio Middle Kids was about as solid as a first outing can get. But hold on to your ears. The new record coming out in March should be even better if this latest single is any indication.
A beautiful rendition of the Bruce Springsteen message of hope.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Sure, they have one of the coolest band names on planet rock. But, they have the Rock and Roll goods to back it up.
What the selections lack in quantity this week they are more than making things up with the subtle nuances inherent in many of the releases. Given that the Christmas release blackout period is right around the corner lets try to savor some gems while we can.
If you were asking yourself if we needed another Elton John greatest hits re-packaging like we are getting in his latest hits-fest, Diamonds, the answer would be a resounding “heck no, enough already.” But, if living with this excess means we get to hear the psychedelic splendor of a never before released John/Taupin composition called “Regimental Sgt. Zippo,” color us all in.
And, if that is not cool enough for your delicate ears, AC/DC is back with the prodigal son Brian Johnson returning to the fold in fine vocal form. Their new record, Power Up, will blast your ears off in November.
And, if you are looking for a little more musical diversity, there’s always room on the Jazz train and the Big Band of Brothers celebration of all things Allman Brothers.
Here are five particular cool nuggets our ears were hip to this week.
Blue Oyster Cult – The Symbol Remains
Even though they never really have stopped touring, Blue Oyster Cult’s latest record The Symbol Remains is the band’s first proper record since 2001’s Curse of the Hidden Mirror. And, what a record this one is. With only two members remaining from the classic lineup in Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom, there is still a lot of rock in the roll energy exuded on virtually every track. Careening between classic hard rock, blues boogie, AOR, stadium anthems, and even rootsy garage rockers, the album is almost a track by track historical tour of the band’s entire career.
The lead-off single “That Was Me” could have easily snuggled in there on Agents of Fortune right there between “True Confessionals” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Box In My Head” is a perfect complement that belongs in the Secret Treaties era, and “Stand and Fight” is a perfectly framed biker anthem. Favorites include the Jon Lord organ inflected “The Return of St. Cecile” that has sort of a “Boy’s Are Back In Town” vibe, and “Train True (Lennie’s Song) is a high-stepping rockabilly rave-up.
Recorded and mixed mostly during a pandemic the production value is first-rate, the mixing polished as tight as the skin on an apple, and the sequencing and tempo changes are as ear-pleasing as you can get. I am not sure if Blue Oyster Cult has anything left in the tank after this magnificent effort, but unlike some of their ’70s rock peers including recently Tesla, Def Leppard, and Black Oak Arkansas, all releasing tepid album versions of their former selves, this new record rivals some of the bands best work, era be damned.
Bahamas – Sad Hunk
Sad Hunk is the fifth studio record that Afie Jurnaven has recorded under his moniker Bahamas making us glad that this Canadian artist has stepped out from backing the likes of Feist and Jason Collett to wander into his own space. Flowing like a bit more amped up Jack Johnson there is even a bit of the spirit of Prince in the two opening songs “Trick To Happy” and “Own Alone.” There is a spirited ’70s Folk-Rock soul on “Done Me No Good” and “Can’t” complain evokes the ghost of Cat Stevens. The song “Less Than Love” would have fit in quite nicely on Boz’ Silk Degrees. This one is the sorely needed escapist chill vibing beautiful noise you need in your life right now.
The Budos Band – Long in the Tooth
As referenced in the album title itself, this Staten Island-based horn-centric band has been around a long time, and yet still seem to be as vibrant as ever. Blending African rhythms, N.O. style second-line horns, funky organs, and psychedelic swirls into an eclectic mix of groovy soundscapes. The song “Sixth Hammer” has a baritone sax solo that will rattle your skeleton, “Snake Hawk” could have been used as the soundtrack for any ’60s science fiction movie, and “Dusterado” is a classic spaghetti Western gunfight in the middle of main street fare. Brevity is the order of the day on this record with no song exceeding 4:00 and most of them in the 3:00 or less range giving less room for expanded riffing and provides for a more textured and varied listen.
Garcia Peoples – Nightcap at Wits End
When a jam band decides to focus a bit more and write songs for those of us that don’t have the attention span to listen to 18-minute open-ended twin-guitar wranglings the results can be pretty ear-pleasing. Here, New Jersey’s own Garcia Peoples have distilled their sound into a less is more set of tunes that provides the listener with a perfect representation of the band in 12 songs weighing in at just under 49 minutes.
The through-line stretching out from from the Prog-lite of “Altered Times,” the Grateful Dead-inspired psychedelic inspiration of “Painting a Vision That Carries,” along with the Jefferson Airplane by way of Krautrock drone of “A Reckoning” will give you a glimpse of an immensely talented band that certainly will garner more ears into the fold with this set of highly digestible and enormously addicting tunes.
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.
Born Ruffians – Squeeze (4 out of 5)
It’s not often, and actually, it’s pretty cool when a band will deliver two extremely listenable Power Pop gems a scant 6 months from each other and deliver this strongly on both fronts. And, Power Pop mavens Born Ruffians have done just that. After having put together enough material for multiple records, at the bare minimum a double album, the band chose to follow up their April release Juice with this October digital-only follow-up effort, Squeeze.
From the opening track, “Sentimental Saddle,” a song that takes you on a semi-psychedelic journey swirling left-turns aplenty with Crazy Horse worthy harmonica escapades, swirling keyboards, and layered harmonies topped off with Beach Boys Holland influences on the back-end, the trip that lies ahead can be nothing but groovy. And It Is.
“30th Century War” has sort of a Kinks by way of The Talking Heads feel to it, the song “Waylaid” features Hannah Georgas on vocals is a solid bass line driven Indie Rock song, and “Sinking Ships” is anthemic in all the right places and is a centerpiece of the record.
There is a pure Pop super-sheen on the earworm-worthy “Rainbow Superfriends” that will stick with you long after your first listen, and the festival-ready “Noodle Soup” goes a bit deeper in understanding the need to take care of each other.
This record is everything you would want in an album that provides a solid listen. Songs with a message, pop-hooks abounding, and enough varied textures and turns to make you want to go to the listening well more deeply with each subsequent listen.
The new record doesn’t come out until next year but here is a little placeholder of a single from this Nashville-based band that is actually cool.