The roll continues to rock this week with some intrinsically cool nuggets perfect for palate cleansing.
The mighty Luke Spiller and The Struts are out with an outstanding E.P., Unplugged at East West.
Americana OG’s The Long Ryders are out with a new video and single in advance of their upcoming record.
And, Brian Dunne, a newcomer we are starting to get behind, has released the single, “It’s A Miracle,” in advance of his soon-to-be-released long player, Loser On The Ropes.
But, enough with the foreplay. Here are five carefully curated selections to please the senses and tickle the earbuds.
Shamus – The Shepherd and the Wolf
Springing from the retro-rockers Sheepdogs collective, a stable that includes The Sheepdogs, the band BROS, and now Shamus, The Shepherd and the Wolf, is the latest project of band member and multi-instrumentalist Shamus Currie. With heavy 1970s influences throughout, the record is a concept album centered around a world of fantasy and adventure.
A rock opera of sorts, there are enough progressive rock touches to satisfy the faithful, leaving the edges to be rounded out with healthy doses of rock and roll. Think of a Jethro Tull without the flute.
From the opening “Days of High Adventure,” the stage is set for an aural journey that will shape-shift your mood back to the days when the music was intelligent and escapism the order of the day. With musical muses the likes of Thin Lizzy, Early Steve Miller, Moody Blues, and King Krimson, the prog riffs are there for sure but are contained to the mini opus level.
Meant to be digested as an entire entity in one sitting, this is a journey worth taking.
Jenny O. – Spectra
Opening with the mighty Hammond B-3 organ on “Pleasure In Function,” Jenny O. introduces us to her newest record which is stylistically a bit of a departure with more indie pop than we may be used to from her.
“You Are Loved Eternally” floats on a George Harrison solo-years cloud, “Prism” is a floater that comes across a bit like Suzanne Vega, while “Advise at A Dinner Party,” a song that reminds us that we get better as we age, has a Bangles dance party vibe about it.
You won’t find yourself passing over any tracks on this record and while Jenny O. might not seem to be as edgy as she was back in her Automechanic Days, this more laid-back introspective version is pretty much perfect for our ears.
Lucero – Should’ve Learned By Now
Having curated a sound that has evolved from Southern rock to Americana, Stax soul and beyond, Lucero continues to release quality music that lifts the spirit and soothes the soul.
From the cowbell declaration of the opener, “One Last F.U.,” the ears perk up, and the train starts rolling, soundtracking a morality tale anthem that would make Tom Waits cringe. Veering away from the Southern-goth imagery, on this, the band’s twelfth record, they return to the barrooms and the bar-rock roots already well-traveled by The Hold Steady, The National, or the Drive-By Tuckers.
Essentially an album about drinking, “Macon If We Make It” is about waiting out a storm in a backwoods watering hole, “At The Show” espouses the youthful exuberance of waiting for your friends trying to figure out how to get into the bar where your favorite band is playing, and “Drunken Moon” speaks for itself.
Overall, Should’ve Learned By Now should stand up in the upper tier of the band’s canon, and for a band that has put out quality work for more than 20 years with essentially the same band members, that is saying a lot.
The Shootouts – Stampede
Coming quickly on the heels of their last record, Bullseye, the timeline for the follow-up shortened once Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson expressed an interest in working with the band. With Stampede, the band’s third long player, the musical template remains the same, Western swing with heavy doses of classic country and Americana thrown in for good measure.
With guest turns from Mary Stuart on “Better Things We Do,” Buddy Miller on “Anywhere But Here,” and the underrated Jim Lauderdale on “Tomorrow’s Knockin’,” the album at times takes on the collaborative feel of a Willie Nelson picnic.
If Bob Wills is the king of Western Swing, then Ray Benson is the crown prince, case in point, “One Step Forward” as presented here. And, if all of that fails to scratch your honky tonk itch, “I’ll Never Need Anyone More,” with Raul Malo pitching in, should have you heading for the dance floor post haste.
En Attendant Ana – Principia
With a vibe that flows somewhere between Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kate Bush, and the chanteuse go-go boots era, the Parisian combo En Attende Ana will hot tub time machine you back to a simpler time when your television had rabbit ears.
Hipster, stopping just short of being shoegaze, the opener, “Principia,” mood-sets the rest of the record with the jangle-adjacent guitar, echo chamber production, and floating Delores O’Riordan-style vocal textures.
“Ada, Mary, Diane,” while a bit more contemporary sounding than much of the record, is nonetheless a compelling jam, “Black Morning” is a bouncy pop tune that would have fit in quite nicely in Melanies’ canon back in the day, and “Wonder” is a vulnerable piece of art with the evocative lyric, “I’m a good human being, my mama said, I hope she’s right,” is a song right from the Aimee Mann playbook.
A groovy listen from start to finish, with the subtle horns, vintage organs, and selective use of the mellotron all coalescing to take you back to a simpler time while keeping your feet planted in the present.
The second single to be released from their upcoming record, Mess of Everything. This band from Springfield, Illinois travels the Power Pop edges of the Wilco, Cheap Trock universe with splinters of Tom Petty to soften out the edges. Look for the new record on March 17.
Nude Party – Sold Out Of Love
We are not sure of what is going on at camp Nude Party, but in the last couple of weeks they have put out a lot of content, and for the record, we here at Rock is the New Roll are quite pleased. This one, “Sold Out of Love” has a bit of a “Wild Horses” scent about it.
Ashley McBryde – Light On In The Kitchen
One of the shining lights on the Country/Americana scene, with her new single Ashley McBryde sings about the simple pleasures of life, pancakes that taste better after midnight, and a dose of local honey.
Angel – It’s Alright
If you were to ask RITNR senior contributor Bernie Sparrow there has been no decent rock music since 1977. This means this freshly minted single that features original Angel members Frank Dimino, Punky Meadows, and Danny Farrow will be on heavy rotation in the halls of Rock is the New Roll H.Q. And, god help us when the new record comes out on April 21st, via Cleopatra Records.
The National – New Order T-Shirt
The second pre-release single from their upcoming ninth proper release, Two Pages of Frankenstein.
The new release mojo is hitting its stride this week with artists jockeying for position, releasing new singles before proper releases to see the light of ear later in the year.
Connor Selby is the real Soul-Blues deal. If Ray Charles had played the guitar instead of the piano, this is pretty much what he would have sounded like.
Dangereens are bringing their Stones meets NY Dolls meets Hanoi Rocks T Rex Boogie rock to the masses with “Lucky In Love.”
And, La Luz Frontwoman Shana Cleveland is out with a new atmospheric single, “Ghost.”
But, as per usual this is all just foreplay for the main event. Here are five newly hatched records to savor from this week’s musical selections.
Wig Wam – Out of the Dark
Widely recognized in the trade as the father of Scandaviavan ’80s Sunset Strip Rock, Wig Wam is back with gusto on this high-voltage set of tunes that will make your hair grow with each subsequent listen.
Lighters lit from the opening track, “Out of the Dark” which has a hint of Van Halen in the air if you listen closely enough, and “High n Dry” would have fit in nicely on any Billy Squire album from back in the day.
With enough interesting curves veering into ’80s Sleaze Rock, ’70s AC/DC, and even ’90s grunge in places, there is enough variety to give this one sustainability over several listens. And, we’re still trying to figure out what to make of the call to arms anthem, “Forever,” a song that literally features the style of Mongolian throat singers The Hu, along with a Celtic dirge vibe.
Come for the Ronnie James Dio splendor of “Uppercut Shazam” and stay for the blast of the Van Halen meets AC/DC of “Bad Luck Chuck” on this fun rollercoaster ride of a record.
Baby Cool – Earthling on the Road to Self Love
As debut albums go, Baby Cool’s is as fine an example as we have heard year-to-date. Firmly implanted in the hazy Psych-Pop genre, there is a certain scene setting to this record that will make you go limp in some places, and will give you over to the music in others.
The shoegaze of “The Sea” starts things off by transporting the listener to a marshmallow cloud full of peaceful vibes, and “Poison” has a bit of a surf guitar and mellotron vibe that will carry you away. And, once the slow-down, deep country evoking “Daydream” washes over your eardrums you will be looking for that last edible to end the evening in blissful contentment.
Doomsday Outlaw – Damaged Goods
Not quite shedding their Southern Rock past, there are still some heavy doses of Blackberry Smoke wafting in the air around these guys, what they have morphed into is a tightly constructed rock and roll band that can rip off Van Halen Worthy Riffs, and an AC/DC high voltage vocal barrage with equal aplomb.
The opener, “In Too Deep” burns the house down and opens up all of the cylinders to set the stage for the rock party that is about to break out. “On My Way,” cowbell indeed, is a cool hybrid of Blackberry Smoke and the Black Crows, and a potential instant classic. “Turn Me Loose” is a loose-limbed rocker, and “My Woman Comes On Strong” stacks up to anything that the Winery Dogs or Black Star Rider are throwing drown on the rock and roll front these days.
Not necessarily recreating the wheel here, when the debate continues that rock and roll is dead, Doomsday Outlaw and Damaged Goods is exhibit A to the contrary.
Laure Briard – Ne pas trop rester bleu
A strong contender for chanteuse record of the year, Laure Briard is a worthy descendant of Francois Hardy or Vashti Bunyan. Here she slips effortlessly between French and English on a sublime set of early ’60s hipster-noir tunes.
Based in Toulouse, France, while her vibe may be French, her spirit is firmly planted in the California desert, after a visit to Joshua Tree, with heavy influences from Carol King, Lee Hazelwood, and the psychedelic scene.
Translated to “don’t stay too blue,” the album title says it all about this record. There is a whimsical beauty to “My Love Is Right,” “Magical Beauty” could have fit in quite nicely in the Burt Bacharach ’60s canon, and “Me Pardonner” puts the chant in chanteuse.
Give this one multiple spins and listen for her songs in the Netflix series Emily in Paris.
CIVIC – Taken By Force
Steeped in the punk-adjacent world of Aussie pub rock, Melbourne’s CIVIC brings to the minds-ear the best of The Saints or Radio Birdman. Every song on this CBGB-worthy, kick out the jams blast of sonic energy is true to form.
“Born On The Heat” could have easily been a mid-era Clash anthem and the Pop-Punk gloss of “Wars or Hands of Time” carries the spirit of Iggy Pop in the days of The Stooges.
There is no real new ground broken here, just solid songwriting, a punk sneer, and a rebellious attitude that carries the day amongst searing guitar solos and propulsive energy. From start to finish this one rocks.
Here are some new, or new to us, songs that are tickling our earbuds this week at Rock is the new Roll.
Rock Criminals – Get Yourself Together
Hailing from Finland, it is no surprise that the band has enlisted Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe on this one. A festival-ready audience participation anthem in the making, the band’s mission statement is to bring back the glory of rock and roll.
Brian Dunne – Bad Luck
Firmly entrenched in the ‘70s and ‘80s singer-songwriter mold, this one bounces along like a hybrid of Jesse Malin and Paul Simon. Good stuff, indeed.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Blacktop
This freshly minted video is from their 2022 record, Cool it down. Slinky and evocative, the song captures the band in top form.
The Sheepdogs – Roughrider ‘89
This new live video tour wrap release is an epic example of The Sheepdogs in all their live kick-ass glory.
Planted firmly in the two things that don’t belong together category Dropkick Murphy’s and Nikki Lane team up on an ode to non-drinking.
Charlie Starr and the Blackberry Smoke boys drop into the Ryman for a no-audience jam, “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodledoo” featuring the new wunderkind Billy Strings.
It won’t be easy to top the auditory splendor of last week’s top, five, but here at Rock is the New roll we do the work so you don’t have to.
American Authors will tickle your earbuds with the ebullient “We Happy.”
The classic rockers The Answer is busy twirling the knobs putting out their first record in 7 years releasing Livin’ On The Line in advance of an album that is sure to be a pure rocker.
And, Mott the Hoople modster Ian Hunter has a new album to April 23rd with “Bed of Roses” providing a taste of what the record is all about.
But enough of the preamble, here are five savory nuggets to assault your eardrums this week.
The Winery Dogs – III
Despite the lack of imagination in selecting the album title, The latest Winery Dogs record is a blast of a Rock and Roll record. A supergroup consisting of Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan, and Mike Portnoy, you would likely get into the dozens without breathing hard if you were to list the number of bands past and present that have engaged their service. Mike Portnoy currently is in Sons of Apollo, Mr. Big, and is the co-founder of Dream Theatre, and Richie Kotzen was a consort of David Coverdale in Whitesnake for many years.
This time out, the veteran rockers deliver a solid set of tunes that land somewhere along the road of MC-5 riffage, early grunge, and ’80s Sunset Strip sleaze-rock. Richie Kotzen’s voice melds quite spectacularly, the bass solos on “Rise” is worth the admission alone, and Mike Portnoy lays down a back-beat worthy of any power trio you want to name including The Jimi Hendrix Experience and SRV’s Double Trouble.
Avoiding the tendency to stretch out the songs with an extended solo here and there on “Gaslight” the ears are treated to a sonic blast that is some cool hybrid of Montrose and Deep Purple, “Lorelei” is a low and slow ballad that spotlights the vocal, and The Red Wine has a bit of a Southern rock flair to spice things up a bit.
All in all, fret for fret, this one is right up there with Black Star Riders when it comes to solid real rock and roll records that have been released this year.
Larry Cambell & Theresa Williams – Live at Levon’s
Delivering the feelgood record of the year husband and wife team Larry Cambell and Theresa Williams have released a vibrant new live record, where the venue, Levon Helms studio in Woodstock, N.Y., has so much magic attached to it consideration should be given to adding the barn as an official band member.
The song selections are loose-limbed and the appreciative audience reaction to the perfomances adds to the overall ambiance of the recording. Willams, who led the infamous Midnight Ramble at the venue until Levon’s death in 2012, is in fine form on fiddle, pedal steel, and lead guitar while wife Theresa handles the bulk of the vocal duties.
The songs inherent on this record are peppy rockabilly style with highlights including a rousing cover of “Big River,” a fun version of Lois Prima’s “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” and a poignant version of the Loretta Lynn love lost ballad “Success.”
A fun romp from start to finish, if you are looking for a feel-good escape Live at Levon’s should be your jam.
Jarrod Dickenson – Big Talk
Current Nashvillian by way of Brooklyn and Waco, Tx., Jarrod Dickenson is a stellar Americana singer songwriter on the rise. Tilting just slightly over to the Country side of the fence, there is also a Tom Petty influence that permeates the ether on this one.
The songwriting here is first rate, case in point “Home Again,” and “if You’re Looking.” Listen closely, and a bit of a Rolling Stones guitar lick emerges on “With Any Luck,” a song that has a Lucas Nelson and the Promise of the Real feel to it, and “Bamboozled” surges forward with a bit of a New Orleans dirge flavor.
An exciting new find, this Outlaw Country adjacent artist should be moved from below your rader right up to the top.
DeWolff – Love, Death & In Between
Nothing if not prolific, Dutch rockers DeWolff has just released their fourth album in the last three years, and it’s retro-riffic.
With a sound that features the mighty Hammond organ prominently, the band lays down a groove of ‘70s rock, psychedelic soul, old-school funk, and Deep Purple classic rock.
White Reaper and Black Star Riders will have something to say, and the new Nude Party album has yet to see the light of ear, but this one might be rock record of the year after all is said and done.
Robert Forster- The Candle and the Flame
As the lead singer of the Australian band the Go-Betweens, Robert Forster certainly knows his way around a pop song or a brooding ballad with these skill sets on prominent display on his new record, The Candle and the Flame.
Beginning with the first two songs, “She’s a Fighter,” along with “Tender Years,” a tribute to Forster’s wife who is dealing with an ovarian cancer diagnosis, and playing things forward to “When I Was a Young Man,” Forster sets a reflective tone that seems to honor the spirit of deceased band mate in the Go-Between’s the Lennon to his McCartney, Grant McLennan.
And, for extra credit, make sure to check out his book The Ten Rules of Rock and Roll, a compilation of his writing for the Australian magazine monthly.
Of course, everything is just a placeholder while waiting for the new Metallica album to hit our shores, but in the meantime, there are a lot of new records to hit our earbuds.
The Power Pop splendor of The Push Puppets is a refreshing new find.
Sunset Strip retro rockers Backstreet Girls are out with a Sleaze-Glam rocker, “Too Cool For You.”
And, Golden Richards, a Power Pop band with hooks-a-million in the Fountains of Wayne and Cheap Trick mold has a cool new single out with “Shake Your Hair.”
But, enough of the pre-game hype. We do the work so you don’t have to. Here are five choice cuts to savor this week.
The Shang Hi Los – Aces Eights & Heartbreaks
That rare band with dueling male-female singers, Dan Kopko and Jen Angora, The Shang Hi-Los, create a beautiful noise mixing Phils Spector girl group and Cheap Trick by way of Blondie Power Pop into a mai-tai blender of semi-retro coolness.
Hailing from Boston, filling out the band with maestros from the area music scene, there is nary a dud inherent in this set of firecracker tunes. The opener, “Takes One To Know You” is Cheap trick with a Badfinger sensibility, “Monsieur Valentine” would have gone over well at CB GB’s in the ’80s with Debbie Harry behind the microphone, and “Plymouth Rock” has a bit of a Pretenders scent wafting in the air. And then there’s “Billy” with its over-the-top mariachi horns a song that is perfect Tarantanio-noir fare.
This record is a blast of a new find worth your extended ear time. Hard to believe, but it’s true. This cool album actually lives up to the cool band name.
White Reaper – Asking For A Ride
To our ears, the Rock album of the year may have just self-presented with White Reapers’ fourth proper record, Asking For A Ride. Over three years past their breakthrough single “Might Be Right,” with this one the band may have just painted their masterpiece.
Part Zenyatta Mondatta era police, part Black Sabbath, with a dose of the MC-5 and The Ramones for good measure, from the opening salvo of the title track you are hit between the ears with an aural blast of atomic energy that is as transformative as music can get without landing you in jail.
From “Asking For A Ride” and on to “Bozo” and “Fog Machine” the guitar and drum attack is relentless, and it is not until four songs in with “Getting Into Trouble W/The Boss” that the poppier side of the band shows through. And, with the Oasis evoking “Heaven or Not” it is clear that the time spent between records honing their craft and curating their sound has the band coming out the other side with a solid release that should stand the test of time.
The Foreign Films – Magic Shadows
With “Midnight Movies,” the opening track of the new album from Bill Majoros, dba The Foreign Films, the tone-setting begins with a dose of Kinksian butterfly splendor in the Schoolboys In Disgrace mold. And, once the second track kicks in with the All Things Must Pass George Harrison vibe on “Rain Clouds (Sunshine In Your Heart)” your minds-ear will be setting the coordinates directly towards cool.
With “Perfect Future,” a song that could have been on any David Bowie Dogs era record, and once the hippy-dippy Donovan dusted “Sparks In the Dark (Merry-Go-Round)” kicks in you will be left hoping that the time machine that took you back to 1965 has enough volts left in the tank to get you home.
Speaking of time machines, the song “Time Machine” will have you yearning for the days of The Dave Clark Five, and there is more than a little bit of Electric Light Orchestra landing on “Cinema Girl (Magic Shadows).” Pound for pound greta, this record, with its textured and fluid Joie-de-vie tickling your ears, will likely resurface once the end-of-the-year lists hit the presses.
David Ronaldo – Tunes For A Dime
A bit too country to be classified as Rock, not quite outlaw enough to ride the wind with Waylon and Jamey Johnston, David Ronaldo, with his new record, Tunes For A Dime, David lands right there in the Sturgill Simpson, Steve Earle universe with Tennesee whiskey, reefers, and wine the order of the day.
Deftly mixing Rock, Barroom Blues, and Country in equal measures, it is hard to imagine the driving ZZ Top adjacent “Laid-Back & Easy” not being a crowd-pleaser in any, pick-your-poison, juke joint where Ronaldo might be playing.
Sure, there is a miss-step along the way here, most notably on “Shadows Walking,” A song that is much too close to the Bon Jovi “Wanted Dead Or Alive” bone, and the environmental challenge of “What Have You Really Done” where the music doesn’t really fit the lyrics, but overall this is a solid listen with over the top guitar work that scorches the earth with a double bill of ZZ Top and Delbert McClinton evoking splendor.
The Arcs – Electrophonic Chronic
The Arcs, the side-piece band for the Black Keys singer-songwriter and Easy Eye Sound major-domo Dan Auerbach, are out with one of the more eclictically cool records of the year with Electrophonic Chronic.
With shades of R&B with “Heaven is a Place,” the yacht rock-adjacent Hall and Oates vibe of “Keep On Dreaming,” and the “Crimson and Clover” dusting on the intro to “Eyes” there is a warm familiarity to the proceedings here that makes this one sound vintage and fresh at the same time, a gift that is Auerbach’s superpower.
Making full use of the instruments available to him at Easy Eye, “River” has a old-school soul organ sound that comes acrsoss like Leon Bridges covering “Take Me To The Water,” and the piano-pop wondermint of “Sunshine” floats along like early era Bee-Gees. Once you get to “A Man Will Do Know Wrong” it is clear that the studio is a co-conspirator on this record taking on a life of its own much in the way that Muscle Shoals was the co-star for all those Soul albums back in the day.
Listen to this one once, twice, then thrice. A new experience will unfold with each subsequent tracking, and they are all glorious to behold.
Full disclosure, we, here at Rock is the New Roll, are not big fans of the music by numbers, slapped together bands put together by Frontier Records. But here, with Cross Country Driver our ears might make an exception.