Best Albums of 2019: Walker Lukens – Adult

With Adult, Walker Lukens has released his most fully formed record to date. Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, the album has an underlying contemporary feel to it while still maintaining its singer songwriter soul. Secret weapon and member of his band The Sidearms, Mckenzie Griffin, really shines on several tracks, most notably on “Frankie & Bella” and “Black Matter.” Vocally, Walker can go from  a Harry Nilsson croon to honeyed voice Marvin Gaye at the turn of a tonsil, and he does so often here with the ease of a seasoned professional. The production value on Adult is first rate and there is a lot of nuance and texture for your ears to enjoy as they travel from song to song. There is a lot discover with repeated listens of this record.

Best Albums of 2019: North Mississippi All Stars – Up And Rolling

Cody and Luther Dickinson, sons of the late Jim Dickinson, have opened up their musical Mississippi home to the rest of us with their brilliant Blues Boogie L.P. Up and Rolling.

Their debut record for New West, working for a semi-major label hasn’t slowed these Cats one bit, and while the production does seem a bit more glossy and less ramshackle than their previous affairs, the result is no less appealing and their boogie till the break of dawn spirit flag is still waiving proudly.

Calling on a gaggle of talented friends to lend a hand in the making of this record in their family studio in the hill country of Mississippi, there is never a dull moment, and every track has a live feel to it especially on their reading of Little Walter Johnson’s “Mean Old World” featuring Duane Betts and Jason Isbell on guitar with Isbell also handling lead vocal duties.

Mavis Staples complements the band perfectly on her own Staples Singers cover of “What You Gonna Do,” and keeping up the family tradition, Cedric Burnside choogles up the joint on his uncle R.L.’s tune “Out on the Road.”

The core group, Luther and Cody Dickinson, Thomas A. Dorsey, Carl Dufrene, and Sharisse Norman are a well seasoned outfit that has played together for many years and the many guests that appear here have jammed with the band all over the Mississippi Delta in one form or another. The fits like a glove partnerships on this record should serve to push this record to the front of many year end best-of lists, genre be damned.

Best Albums of 2019: The Limboos – Baia

The Limboos – Baia (Rating 5 out of 5)

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The Limboos are pretty much the very definition of a genre defying band. A bit soul, retro in all the coolest of ways fusing together Soul, Rumba, Jazz, Blues, Funk, and a bunch of others we are probably skipping. On songs like “Till The End Of Town” you would bet your last dollar this was a Stax single from the 60’s.

When the sax kicks in on “Where Did She Go,” the first single from the album, there is a sense that you should be in some sort of Jetsons hipster go-go bar. The vocals are front and center and the production value is first rate with no single instrument overpowering another. And yes, they have a female drummer, as if they needed anything else to add to their coolness.

“Big Shot” the second single to be released as well as the opening track, sticks the groove and never let’s up. Swinging organ, silky sax, hip vocals all are the order of the day. This one is a timeless classic

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Operating out of Madrid, most of the media about the band is in Spanish, which is somewhat perplexing since all of the songs are in English. There is not a bad tune to be had on this record. It is a great party record with ebbs and flows that make it a textured masterpiece.

 

Best Albums of 2019: The New Roses – Nothing But Wild

This one might be the Rock and Roll record of the year. And, if this were thirty years ago most of the songs on this scorcher of a record would be in the top 10 with a bullet. “The Bullet” would have made a perfect Night Ranger ballad, “Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” sounds a bit like Bon Jovi on steroids.

The choruses are huge, the hooks are everywhere and with songs that extoll the virtues of a six pack and a radio down by the river you won’t even need throwback Thursday to bring back the good old days.

Part Def Leppard part Brian Adams, if you are of a certain age this album would have been the soundtrack of your 20’s. As it is, let this be the soundtrack of a waning summer.

Best Albums of 2019: Shana Cleveland – Night of the Worm Moon

Known mostly for her work with the Surf-Noir Band La Luz, Shana Cleveland doesn’t stray too far from the vintage guitar, psychedelic haze ambience on Night of the Worm Moon, her second proper full length record as a solo artist.

The cool, laconic, mostly psychedelic under current that wafts through the entire proceedings like an early era Leonard Cohen poetry reading will instantly take you back to a time when television came in both colors. Black, and white.

“The Fireball” is a shoegaze-y mellow-tron of a tune and “Solar Creep” is a night time chill-out experience. Don’t expect the jams to be kicked out anywhere on this record, just a fine, understated, spectral beauty of a listening journey.

Best Albums of 2019: The Quireboys – Amazing Disgrace

The formula of The Small Faces filtered through a prism of The Rolling Stones and ZZ Top hasn’t changed much in 35 years for The Quireboys, but that’s not really the point. These guys can still write a killer hook and their new songs can stand ear to ear with tunes they may have written decades ago. Are you listening Rolling Stones? And, we’re not letting you off the hook Billy Joel. Their scorching opener “Original Black Eyed Son” swings the barroom doors open in the best of ‘let’s get ready to rumble’ ways. With the drum beat introduction and the horns kicking in, once the organ joins the party early on in the song you can almost see lead singer Spike Gray swashbuckling into the room with a bottle of Jack Daniels under one arm and a busty blond under the other.

Two songs in with “Singer Serenader” you are left wondering if these guys are really in their sixties or just might be a bunch of millennials with a garage band who grew up listening to their grand parents Classic Rock record collection.

And yes, Spike Gray, with a voice that sounds like he gargles with sandpaper, cigarettes and whiskey can take things lower and even slower and deliver a ballad with the best of them like he does on “This is It.” It is here where there is a spit take moment towards the end of the song when the ghost of Papa John Creach seemingly joins the party with a fiddle outro. It’s subtle, but it’s there. And it’s delicious.

There literally is not a bad song on this record. The entire proceedings are so cool that the guys can almost be forgiven for going all Bryan Adams on our ears with “Dancing In Paris.” Well, almost. They tried to hide it by sneaking it in as the second to the last song on the album. The spot that is typically reserved for songs that are added at the last minute for filler purposes. We are on to your little reindeer games Quireboys. Shine on you crazy diamonds!

The Top 10 Albums of 2019 (so far)

There has been a truck load of great records out this year and before the new Bruce Springsteen comes out this Friday, everything else is just a placeholder, here are our top ten favorites.

10. J.S. Ondara – Tales of America

This Minnesota by way of Kenya Americana Folk singer is this years Leon Bridges. An inspiring new find , Ondara fully absorbs himself in any song he sings.

09. Austin Meade – Waves

This denizen of the Texas hill country lays down a template of 70’s outlaw inspired country influenced songwriting with more of than a touch of Rock as well as Roll.

08. Yola – Walk Through The Fire

You won’t need to to much past the first song on this record, “Faraway Look”, for this one to grab you. With pipes that would make Dusty Springfield blush along with the production fairy dust from Dan Auerbach and his Easy Eye team, this is one could have been released in 1968.

07. Guida E.V.A

An extremely rambunctious listen, E.V.A., the latest from Italian Glam Rock titans Guida combines Glam, 70’s Rock, and a tinge of disco that will mood-set your day at first listen.

06. Jack Ingram – Ridin’ High … Again

Ingram’s tribute in spirit to Jerry Jeff Walker and the rest of the hill country troubadours. Another record that could have been made in 70’s era Nashville. His take on “Desperados Waiting on a Train” is worth the price of admission alone.

05. Nightbeats – Myth of a Man

There is a real and pronounced outlaw-groove Tarantino-Noir vibe that permeates every pore of this album.

04. Kenny Wayne Sheppard – The Traveller

Kenny Wayne Sheppard with each release seems to be more and more comfortable with his place in the pantheon of guitar slingers. His latest, a Classic Rock concoction of Blues, Boogie, and Rock is a powerhouse. Singer Noah Hunt is in fine grizzled form still sounding like Warren Zevon’s less drug addled brother, and Stevie Ray’s old stick man Chris Layton pushes the band down the rails like a runaway train. Including eight originals and two covers, the best of the lot being a scorched earth version of Neil’s Mr. Soul, this one might be the bands best record to date.

03. Jenny Lewis – On the Line

Firmly entrenched in Laurel Canyon California Lounge-Rock of the 70’s. Any record that features Benmont Tench, Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, Beck, and Don Was has to be the coolest. And this one is.

02. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

This one came out of nowhere, also way back in January. A collaboration between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, both site favorites, this one is a tight Folk- Rock record that brings out the best in both artists.

01. The Delines – The Imperial

Brooding and vulnerable Country Soul from the side-piece band for Richmond Fontaine head honcho. Every song is a Raymond Carver short story.