It has been a while since Carole King evoking piano-pop was in vogue, but hopefully, the delicate stylings of Julia Mark will change all that.
Swedish singer songwriter The Tallest Man on Earth has a new covers album coming out soon. Here, he covers a Hank Williams classic.
Somehow, Ozzy Osborne was able to convince Eric Clapton to play on his new album and the latest single, “One of Those Days.”
Magnolia Park is doing their best Fountains of Wayne impersonation on the fantastically catchy “Addison Rae.”
And, the garage rock noise-nicks Murlocs come out blasting with their new one, “Ballerine Ballerina.”
But wait, don’t turn those ears down just yet, here a five more cool sounds for you to savor this week.
Crossword Smiles – Pressed & Ironed
As debut albums go, Pressed & Ironed, delivered by Crossword Smiles, is as great a debut record that you are likely to hear all year. From the breezy Little River Band adjacent “October Leaves” to the calmer side of The Replacements on “…Where’s The Sense,” and sliding into the early Who evoking wonderment of “The Girl With a Penchant For Yellow,” on this one, all of the coolest touchstones coalesce into a pool of power pop perfection.
From the opener, “Feet on the Ground,” the listener is introduced to a sparkling new band that brings to the minds-ear pre-Sweethearts of the Rodeo Byrds, and “Take It On the Chin” would have fit in quite likely between Full Moon Fever and Damn the Torpedos in the Tom Petty canon while the epic “Parallel Lines” seems to share some DNA with The Zombie’s and “She’s Not There.”
With the crisp and pristine production combined with an ear-pleasing mix with the vocals floating just in front of the guitars, there is no puzzle to be solved with these crosswords. 5 across, 6 letters……WINNER.
Rhett Miller – The Misfit
Rhett Miller, the head man of The Old 97’s doesn’t come out to play solo very often, his last effort was way back in 2018 with The Messenger, but when he does, the results are typically outstanding as is the case with The Misfit.
Once again teaming up with Sam Cohen, a former member of Apollo Sunshine, this time out the order of the day is psychedelic infused Indie Pop instead of the Americana version of The Replacements like we are used to with him. Touches of Big Star, The Beatles and Tom Petty make this one a relaxing sail in calm waters.
Starcrawler – She Said
With front-woman Arrow De Wilde and their new record She Said, the band Starcrawler is in full throttle mode to continue their assault on rock and roll supremacy.
With a style that brings to mind John Doe and his band X, The Distillers, along with the sleazier side of The Rolling Stones, it is no wonder that they count Jack White, Dave Grohl, Angel Iggy Pop in the fold as super fans.
Lead single “Roadkill” travels down the highway sounding like The Go Go’s on steroids, “Thursday” would make The Runaways proud, and “Midnight” takes thing low and a bit back alley slow.
If this five piece L.A. collective can stay raw and hungry there is no telling the heights they can reach.
Ondara – Spanish Villager No. 3
Having taken the Americana world by storm with his Grammy nominated album Tales of America, Nairobi, Kenya native Ondara moved to Bob Dylan’s Minnesota stomping grounds in an attempt to capture some of the mojo from his idol.
Now, three years beyond his debut, Ondara finds himself settling into his new life quite nicely, case in point the autobiographical “An Alien in Minneapolis.” With songs like “A Shakedown in Berlin,” “A Seminar in Tokyo,” and “A Drowning in Mexico City” the album is part travelogue, part vagabond love letter, and all heart courtesy of an artist that really should be more widely known than he is.
The Black Angels – Wilderness of Angels
Remaining slavishly devoted to Psychedelic Rock forbearers Syd Barrett Roky Erickson, and Arthur Lee, Austin’s Black Angels deliver on all fronts with this mellotron forward, swirling tour de force.
On “The River” Syd and Roky along with members of The Velvet Underground are name-checked, while “Firefly” is straight up ‘60s flashback, Donovan by way of Austin Powers. And, “A Walk on the Wild Side” careens down the paisley highway managing to bring itself together just as the proceedings seem to be blindly veering into magical mystery tour territory.
This record is yet another ambitious undertaking from a band that continues to push the psychedelic boundaries.
This one will take you back to that time you spent three days with Austin Powers at his bachelor party.
The vibe of the song as well as the video perfectly complement the song title. “Lava Lamp” is a perfectly woozy affair.
Time keeps rolling along, and as the year progresses, the hits are starting to pile up.
’90s vintage Country dwellers Midland are once again summoning the ghosts of Garth Brooks and George Strait with their latest, “Longneck Way To Go.
The Afghan Whigs have released “The Getaway” in advance of a new album to be released on September 9.
And, the Waterboys are out with another album that sounds like The Waterboys. That is great.
But wait, that’s not all. There was a bevy of prime musical cuts to select from this week, so many that we had a tough time paring the list down to five albums this week. But, we did the work so you don’t have to. Here are five groovy platters spinning at Rock is the New Roll HQ this week.
AWOLNATION – My Echo, My Shadow, My Covers & Me
Sometimes, when there is really no legitimate reason for a band to cover a certain song or the song is such an earworm that our ears can’t comprehend anyone but the artist performing it, there can be magic in the air when it is done well. And, that is certainly the case with My Echo, My Shadow, My Covers & Me, the latest missive from AWOLNATION.
With a playlist that is as tight as the skin on an apple, every song presented here is a nostalgic trip down top 40 memory lane from the days that radio play actually meant something. The rendition presented here of “Maniac,” from the movie Flashdance, has enough curves to make this a different listening experience from the original, and the Scorpion’s iconic “Wind of Change”, with a guest turn from Incubus and Portugal. The Man, shouldn’t work, but it does quite well.
Were not sure that there ever has been an attempt at covering Alan Parson’s “Eye In The Sky,” and although this version paints pretty much between the lines, the guest turn from Beck is pretty cool. “Flagpole Sitta” is worthy of some ear time simply because you likely have not heard the song in a while and Elohim very much does it justice, “Alone Again (Naturally),” yes that one, shouldn’t really work either, but in this context with Retro-Country dudes, Midland sitting in it works quite well. If you have never heard the tune with a pedal steel guitar give this one a try.
And, once you add the anthemic “Beds Are Burning,” ABBA’s “Take A Chance On Me,” and the Cars’ “Drive” what you are left with is a highly polished, exquisitely curated set of songs that just might come together as the best covers album of the year when all is said and done.
Chateau Chateau – Grow Up
With the punk attitude of Blondie along with the buoyant energy of The Bangles, Chateau Chateau is a loose-knit collective of Tucson-based musicians that self describe themselves as making cathartic indie pop for weirdos, outcasts, queer folks, and anyone else who needs it.
Grow Up, the band’s sophomore record is a concept record of sorts detailing the various relationships that frontperson Bleu has maintained, both good and bad, throughout her life. “I Don’t Love You Anymore” is a CBGB-worthy rocker with Phil Spector girl group interludes that rails against her abusive father, and “Converted” walks the ground once traveled with a narcissistic ex.
“Push Your Luck” would have been a superb Pretenders single back in the day, and the ‘Til Tuesday Indie Rock classic “Voices Carry” is a perfect cover version to bring out the versatility of the band.
After a couple of spins of this record, especially on the song “Pray,” the specialness of individuality surfaces and is celebrated in its truest form.
Luke Winslow King – If These Walls Could Talk
Recorded in Memphis, New Orleans-based Luke Winslow King with the release of If These Walls Could Talk represents his most pleasingly diverse set of songs to date. From the peppy “Slow Sunday, June,” a song that has them sitting in the shade under a banyan tree on a sultry New Orleans Sunday afternoon to “Love At First Sight” that will transport you to a stroll down Bourbon Street.
Proving he can rock with the best of them, the Jonny Lang evoking “Have A Ball” is pure Blues-Rock Big Easy Style. The title track is a somber look at a relationship that is ebbing away, and “Leaves Turn Brown” is a perfect winsome closer.
Proving that he is no vintage Country and Jazz one-trick pony, this mostly settled down affair will reward the soul wit multiple spins on the turntable.
The Coffis Brothers – Turn My Radio Up
With the very appropriate album title, Turn My Radio Up is perfect Laurel Canyon, Pacific Coast Highway, peaceful easy feeling fare. Produced by Tim Bluhm, frontman for The Mother Hips, the record gives a definite nod to the radio dial harkening back to the late ‘70s, when radio still mattered.
The opener, “One That Got Away” could have been a Timothy B. Schmidt vocal-led single from an early Eagles record, and the single “Turn My Radio” up would have been perfect on a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers record.
“Ramona” travels into Flying Burrito’s Cosmic Cowboy territory, and “Two of a Kind” brings to mind Jackson Browne in his Running On Empty days.
Growing up in the Santa Cruz mountains in California seems to have been the perfect backdrop for brothers Jamie and Kellen Coffis to hone their craft using Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers as influences to craft one of the best album releases of the year so far.
Pink Mountaintops – Peacock Pools
With their first record in 8 years, Stephen McBean and his collective Pink Mountaintops weave a magical mystery tour of a record, Peacock Pools.
Full of neo-psychedelic turns around every corner, this record combines early Kinks with Pink Floyd and Alan Parsons if your ears can grasp all of that coolness in one sitting.
Playing it mostly straight on the tender “Nikki Go Sudden,” a tribute to the late Post-Punk icon Nikki Sudden, the rest of the album seems to be in constant motion with “Shake The Dust” propelling down the road with a bit of Kraftwerk in its DNA, and “Miss Sundown” summoning the ghost of early “Jean Genie” David Bowie.
As is the case with most really good records, this takes you down a different Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole with every turn of the groove.
Another week has gone by and another really cool music week to enjoy. A feast for the ears for sure.
Hank Williams Jr. has signed on with Easy Eye Sound releasing “.44 Special Blues” in advance of a new record to be released later in the year.
Rockers Sweet Crisis is out with a stellar version of Free’s classic “I’ll Be Creepin”.
And, proving again that Easy Eye sound can do no wrong, Velveteers make their presence known in advance of a proper full-length later in the year.
And, why wait until record store day, here are five more ear-tickling nuggets to tingle the ears and soothe the soul.
Blackberry Smoke – Stoned
A digital drop of the 2021 Record store day release, this Blackberry Smoke Rolling Stones tribute was recorded, mixed, and mastered live in one take on November 6, 2020.
Featuring songs from the ‘70s pulling heavily from Exile on Main Street and Sticky Fingers, the less is more approach that super-producer Dave Cobb gives to the project gives it the loose feel magic that many of those mid-era stones carried back in the day.
Charlie Starr and Blackberry Smoke were born to inhabit the soul of “Sway,” and “Street Fighting Man” stays a bit too close to the vest to be actually cool.
But, you have a right to be pissed if you bought the vinyl because you were a Blackberry Smoke fan and you never thought this record would see the light of ear on your favorite digital platform.
Kurt Vile – (watch my moves)
Always flirting with the fringes of pop, adding a fuzz guitar there, a psychedelic interlude there, Kurt Vile consistently delivers a unique brand of Rock and Roll that while it can be a bit fried and sizzled at times, is always eclectically cool. And his latest, (watch my moves), is certainly no exception.
From the opener, “Going on a Plane Today,” Vile has plans to chug a beer, listen to Neil Young Young, and reflect on his younger self, setting the stage for a set of songs that wander stealthily through the garden as a perfect accompaniment for chilling on a bench reading Raymond Carver short stories.
The Lou Reed speak-sing lilt of “Flyin (like a fast train)” has a way of washing over you at first listen and completely enveloping you with multiple spins. And, the single “Like Exploding Stones” will have you going woo woo for the rest of the day.
This is a winner of a record that will require multiple spins on the turntable for the hook to set. But when it does, you will be a better person for listening to it. Certainly, a more advanced one.
Edgar Winter – Brother Johnny
Ultimately dying from fierce heroin addiction in 2014, Johnny Winter was one of the first white Blues-Rock virtuosos, a trailblazing precursor to Jonny Lang, Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, and many more. And here, on Brother Johnny, his brother Edgar has gathered a who’s who of guitar slingers to pay tribute covering many of the songs that are part of the Johnny Winter canon over the years.
The list of artists that contributed here is ridiculously cool including Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Keb’ Mo’, Derek Trucks, Joe Walsh, David Grissom, Steve Lukather, Doyle Bramhall II, Warren Haynes, Bobby Rush, and Robben Ford. Can I get an Amen?
With each song uniquely produced to match the style of the guest artist, each song, while having been heard thousands of times the tunes come out of the speakers as a wholly new entity. Highlights are many including the scorching “I’m Yours and I’m Hers” with Billy Gibbons and Derek Trucks going fret for fret, and “Highway 61 Revisited” featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
As ringleader, Edgar Winter does a masterful job of playing and producing this record with the notable exception of adding Michael McDonald to the cast of cronies on “Stranger.”
And, on what was one of his last non-Foo Fighter appearances, Taylor Hawkins provides the drumming and backing vocals on the prescient “Guess I’ll Go Away.”
Kaitlin Butts – What Else Can She Do
Put a pin in this date of your musical listening history as you will likely want to remember the first time that up-and-coming Americana singer Kaitlin Butts hit your ear waves. With a voice that floats somewhere between Kacey Musgraves and Margo Price and a cowgirl rebel attitude that could rival Nikki Lane, there is a certain Lydia Loveless aura sounding her latest record, “What Else Can She Do.”
From the opening night-noir refrains from “It Won’t Always Be This Way,” the pure class of the songwriting demonstrated here is readily apparent.
“Speak of the devil, in he walks. It’s like his ears burn when I talk. Pushed in a gutter, stuck in a rut, waiting for the next turn of the knife in my gut.”
And it only gets better than there. “What Else Can She Do” has a definite Tanya Tucker by way of Shelby Lynne vibe, while “Jackson” is a dangerous spin on the original that namechecks Johnny and June. Spoiler alert, they never make it to Jackson.
At a tidy 7 songs in just under 32 minutes in length, this record should be digested in one bourbon-filled sitting not stopping until the closing Leadbelly staple “In The Pines” completes its mournful wail and floats away from your speakers.
A riveting turn from an artist that knows what it’s like to live on the knife’s edge without cutting herself and wants to tell us all about it.
Jewel – Freewheelin’ Woman
Seven years removed from her last attempt to reinvent herself, Picking Up The Pieces, Jewel has returned to the scene of the scene with the Pop-Soul centric Freewheelin’ Woman.
“Living With Your Memory” is pure Muscle Shoals bombast, “No More Tears” is a dramatic turn with an assist from Darius Rucker, and “Half-Life” could have been a hit song in the ‘70s by any number of the female country crooners.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more life-affirming song recorded this year than “Dance Sing Laugh Love,” the centerpiece of a record that might not put Jewel firmly back on the radar, but a visit from an old friend you haven’t heard from in a while is always welcome.
There is a bit of a 90’s Indie Rock Suzanne Vega vibe to Jane Lane, aka Sophie Negroni, and her tremendous new song, “Ask Me Why.”
There seems to be a bit of a lull on the new music front as the heavy lifting is underway in preparation for the summer releases. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few gems to be mined.
Jukebox The Ghost have released a bouncy new pop song, “Wasted.”
Rock is the New Roll stalwarts Ducks Ltd. are back with a rollicking collaboration with the Illuminati Hotties.
And, the band Lucius has collaborated with Brandi Carlile and Sheryl Crow on a bouncy new single, “Dance Around It.”
But, don’t spend all of your lunch money just yet. Here are five new records that were released this week for you to digest.
Ray Wylie Hubbard – Co-Starring Too
No need to mix words here. Ray Wylie Hubbard is a bonafide Texas outlaw legend. Here in the sequel to Co-Starring, with Co-Starting Too, Hubbard is back in true collaboration glory spinning to include Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, and Hayes Carll along with harder rockers John 5 and Lzzy Hale. And yes, Hubbard BFF Ringo Starr is invited back to the party on “Ride or Die – Montar O Morir.”
There are no slips here, after all Ray Wylie is incapable of penning a bad song, but a clear standout is “Groove,” a song that name checks among others J.J. Cale, Tony Joe White, and Delaney and Bonnie.
If blues is your thing, if Rock is your jam, don’t blame it on the boogie, get in with the groove and this fine sequel. This one’s for cowboys, old drunks, paramours, and thieves.
April March – In Cinerama
It is best not to overthink things when it comes to, In Cinerama, the spectacularly cool new album courtesy of April March. Pretty much every genre that you hold dear to your ears is represented within the the pages of this record. Beach Boys sunshine, surf rock, French pop, Spector girl group, Tarantino – Noir, you name it, it’s here.
“Open Your Window Romeo” is a a great Parisian-Pop tune that would have played quite nicely in the recent vintage One Upon A Time in Los Angeles movie, “Ride or Divide” would have been a perfect song for Diana Ross and The Supremes to cover, and “Down the Line” has has a contemporary sunshine swing that would make Bethany Constantino and her band Best Coast blush.
And, if all of that doesn’t want you to staple your ears directly to the speakers, “Stand in the Sun,” and “Rolla Rolla” will take you back to your favorite ‘60s vintage hipster a-go-go.
Chip Z’Nuff – Perfectly Imperfect
As bass player and major-domo for the power pop band Enuff’s Z’Nuff, Chip Z’Nuff and his band have always stood in the shadow of Cheap Trick and have been criminally ignored in the realm of Classic Rock heroes.
As the only remaining member from the stalwart band, Chip gives a master class in Power Pop that delivers on a set that includes the gang-harmony splendor of “Heaven in a Bottle,” the pulsating virility “3 Way,” and the hooks-a-plenty “Honaloochie Boogie” that has Fountains of Wayne meets Weezer in the DNA.
Give this one multiple spins and as Chip and guest artist Joel Hoekstra would say two songs in, “Welcome to the Party.”
Colin Hay – Now and Evermore
Colin Hay, the former frontman for Men at Work, is still at work with the release of his first solo album since 2016. Having relocated to Los Angeles, where this record was recorded between L.A. and Nashville, the songs have a distinct Americana feel to them that is both comforting and inspiring.
“Where Does The End Begin” finds a man at peace with his life’s journey, and the title track features Ringo Starr. The song “Undertow” is a perfect lamentation of life’s ups and downs, and “All I See Is You” is an Irish tinged coming home to you love song.
This is a perfectly uplifting record for these times that are not so uplifting.
Duke Robillard – They Called It Rhythm & Blues
Amazingly, They Called It Rhythm & Blues is Duke Robillard’s first record that is pure vintage-style danceable blues, and as such this collection of R&B, Blues, and jazz covers is a treat for the ears.
The swing is the thing right from jump street with “Here I’m Is,” a treatise in jump blues. Sue Foley add’s some grace to the proceedings on “No Good Lover,” and the horn-centric party anthem “In The Wee Wee Hours” is house-boogie perfection.
Even when the vibes drop low and slow like they do on “Someday After A While,” with a stellar vocal turn courtesy of the Fabulous Thunderbird Kim Wilson, the results are captivatingly cool.
With boogie blues classics “Eat Where You Slept Last Night” and the organ drenched “Swingin’ For Four Bills” instrumental closing down the party, one can sense that this was a one in a lifetime passion project for all involved.
It’s March already, the weather is getting warm and the music even hotter. This week, we get a break from the old standbys and have some fresh cut, new blood to savor.
Rosalie Cunningham starts things off with her Glam, Rock, Folk masterpiece Two-Piece Puzzle with the stellar “Duet” as a clear-cut favorite that would have been a brilliant Queen song.
The Hoodoo Gurus are coming out from a self-imposed hibernation after ten years. And, the verdict is in. They’re still great.
And, Texas treasure Ray Wylie Hubbard is out with yet another single, “Stone Wild Horses,” from his upcoming record, this time featuring Willie Nelson.
Jeremy Ivey – Invisible Pictures
Quickly shedding his image as Mr. Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey is hitched to his own star on his latest long player, Invisible Pictures. With his low-key charm and Americana – Pop sensibilities, the record seems to bounce along like Snoopy and Woodstock running through a field on a sunny Day.
The opener “Orphan Child” has a bit of Daniel Romano’s eclectic DNA in its core. “Keep Me High” has a delicate Traveling Wilbury’s by way of Fountains of Wayne vibe, and “Trial By Fire” slows the pace and exposes some stellar songwriting.
With lush strings and pastoral production complementing in the pocket vocals and catchy melodies, this is a perfect placeholder while you are waiting for Spring to arrive.
The Mysterines – Reeling
As debut albums go, Reeling, the sparkling, bombastic record from Liverpool rockers The Mysterines at the end of the year, might well be considered for one of the best.
With a DIY feel to the songs along with aggressive production value, the garage punk-pop songs seem to burst from the speakers. Recorded live to capture the dynamics inherent in their incendiary live shows, from the opening salvo of “Life’s A Bitch (And I Like It So Much),” you are transformed in your hot tub time machine to a mid-‘80s mosh pit at CBGB’s.
And, things only get cooler from there. “On The Run” is a bit of a curve baller with an ever so slight Americana tint to it, and “Under Your Skin” slams on the breaks with an edge that would be quite comfortable on any of the mid-era Doors records.
This album is liking finding a rare rookie card in a packet of baseball cards. This won’t be the last we will be hearing from this cracking new rock and roll band.
WICKED – The Last American Rock Band
Rochester, NY rockers Wicked certainly give it a go to live up to the albums name with their latest long-player, The Last American Rock Band.
The audio template here is pure unfiltered, high energy Rock & Roll drawing influences from the classic Sunset Strip era, back to 80’s Def Leppard, Bon Jovi arena rock, and beyond. And, yes there’s cowbell, most spectacularly on “Hooligans,” a song that could have been ripped right from the cover of Cream magazine.
From the opener, “American Rock Rock n’ Roller” there is a visceral, euphoric mood changer that will envelope you once the gang vocals kick in and the aural vision of Night Ranger by way of The Romantics is sugar-bombed into your brain.
Once the closer, “Hot Stage Lights,” a perfect song for Luke Spiller and The Struts, to cover, finishes, the lighters are lit awaiting the power ballad that never arrives.
Bryan Adams – So Happy It Hurts
You likely would have to go back to 1984 to come up with the last time that Bryan Adams and John Mellencamp released quality records in the same year, but with the release of So Happy It Hurts following on the heels of Mellencamp’s Strictly a One-Eyed Jack released earlier in the year, your ship has come in.
Right from the opening title track, it might as well be the summer of ‘69 all over again. The Tom Waits-lite rasp is more whiskey soaked than ever, the radio- friendly cruise with the top down anthems are all in place, and if you are looking for a summer jam in the middle of March you have been to the right place.
With expectations low and subsequently shattered with this record, unlike reruns of All In The Family, Bryan Adams has aged remarkably well. Virtually every song here could have snuggled in quite nicely next to 83/84’s records Cuts Like A Knife or Reckless. And, that pretty much is all you need to know about this sparkling record from an artist that you had forgotten that you missed very much.
Matt North – Bullies In The Backyard
Matt North is one the consummate musician session player artists. While he might not be a household name just yet, he has been on stage drumming with the likes of Maria McKee, Peter Case, and a slew of others.
Here, on his own proper solo record, Bullies In The Backyard, he further stretches his singing and songwriting chops with a warm set of songs that range from Americana to roadhouse boogie at the drop of a whiskey glass. “Hollywood Forever” is a mariachi tinged wonder in the Springsteen “Glory Days” mold, “Trophy Case” is a girl on the prowl Jesse Dayton-worthy story song, and “Stay On The Outside” has a Tom Petty “Breakdown” essence about it.
With an Outlaw Country Americana vibe that would make The Highwaymen proud, this new find deserves some heavy play in your musical rotation.