Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Records Released In July

Here are five really cool records that perked our ears up in the month of July:

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.

Stand-Out Song: R.O.C.K (feat. Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown

Massive Wagons: House of Noise

It should come as no surprise that some of the best good old fashioned retro Rock and Roll is coming from England, and in this Lancaster, England in the form of Massive Wagons. Not new on the scene by any means, they have been doing what they do for ten years now, and they have finally hit their stride with the immensely enjoyable House of Noise. With no rocket scientry going on here, heck, these guys aren’t even splitting the atom, the sound is pure good-time ’70s Rock and Roll. If you love Foghat and Grand Funk you will love Massive Wagons.

Stand-Out Song: Bangin’ In Your Stereo

Kai Danzberg: Rockshow

If you have ever pondered what sort of record Freddy Mercury might be putting out if he were alive today, the questioned 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 standing out as a Power Pop masterclass.

Stand-Out Song: Rockshow

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – The Non-Stop

Cut from Brit-Pop cloth, this Cardiff based band delivers on a more than solid 8 song set of T-Rex Glam mastery. Catching the whimsical essence of Glam Master Marc Bolan without stealing his shtick all together copying his act, Tom Rees might just be our new favorite front-man.

Stand-Out Song: Double Denim Hop

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.

Stand-Out Song: I’m a Man

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (July 31, 2020)

We get an extra week this month to check out our favorite records. That’s the good news. The bad news is that is is a pretty tepid week on the new release front. Undaunted, however, we will carry on my wayward sons.

There is a new Stryper song to sink your ears into in advance of a new record to be released later in the year.

Retro Country stars Midland gave us a live video this week from their live at The Palomoino recent release,

and, Rock is the new Roll mega-favorite Lissie is back after an extended absence with the highly excellent track “Just Because I can.

Here are five new records that have earned our attention this week.

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.

Mike Polizze – Long Lost Solace Find

Somewhat of a departure here for Mike Polizze as he strays from the recent Grunge-Garage sound of his band Purling Hiss for a more gently acoustic sound on this, his debut solo record. Played and sung entirely by Polizze with production help from Kurt Vile the record meanders from shoe-gaze to Beck inspired Bedroom Rock at the blink of an ear. There is a bit of grandeur around the subtle instrumentation that deftly floats around the lyrics that might bring to mind Nick Drake or Karen Dalton at their most thoughtful.

Psychedelic Furs – Made of Rain

As the torchbearers for much of the Psychedelic Rock sound that is prevalent in today’s  Indie Rock sound, The Psychedelic Furs have released their first record in over twenty years. Dispanding their snarly Punk sound and sometimes foray into Synth-Pop, this one has a more expansive arena-friendly sound. There are a couple of real highlights here that will genuinely excite the long time fans of the band including “Wrong Train,” a song clearly demonstrating that Richard Butler has lost nothing on his vocal fastball and “Don’t Believe.” Once concerts return to full gear, expect an epic return to glory for this band that practically invented Indie Rock and college radio.

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

Don’t get stuck in the past
Say your favorite things at mass
Tell your mother that you love her
And go out of your way for others
Sit beneath a light that suits ya
And look forward to a brighter future
Sink as far down as you can be pulled up
Happiness really ain’t all about luck
Let your demeanor be your deep down self
And don’t sacrifice your life for your health
When you speak, speak sincere
And believe me friend, everyone will hear

If only people would listen.

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.

Five Cool Ones – Five New Albums Released This Week (July 24, 2020)

The quality of new music is down a touch from some really stellar prior weeks, but fear not, August is trending to be a stellar month. Despite the lack of quantity, there is a slew of really cool singles out there as artists seek to teasingly tickle our ears in anticipation of what is yet to come. The Rolling Stones, yes those Rolling Stones have released another single, “Scarlet” featuring Jimmy Page.

The band Whitney has delivered a spot-on version of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” reminding us what a great song it really is.

And, of course, Grace Potter continues to deliver her Monday Night Twilight quarantine episodes.

Here are five albums that are capturing our ear time this week.

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 ralbum will bring to mind the last couple of Chris Stapelton records.

The Danberrys – Shine

The Danberrys are an old-school husband and wife team delivering rich story songs of pastoral blues and back-woods funk. With Dorothy Daniels’  soaring vocals in the Tanya Tucker mold and Ben Deberry’s masterful guitar playing moving the needle, the sound is dynamic and the overall texture of the record borders on country noir. There is a swagger to their recordings that was not inherent in their previous recordings most notably on the opening track “Shine” and the stunning “Holding the Bag.” The duo enters into Steve Earle territory on “The Road,” and on “Never Gone” they seem to be heading towards the dark night of the soul.

Give this one a spin, several listens in you will discover a few layers that will stick with you for a long time.

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.

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.

Roberta Flack – First Take

The stunning debut record, First Take, is getting a glossy 50th-anniversary reissue makeover and it sounds fresher and better than ever. With a stripped-down band of Roberta on Piano, Ray Lucas on drums, Ron Carter on bass, and John Pizarreli on guitar, every song on the record is handled with a velvet touch. From the stunning opener “Compared to What” to the Leonard Cohen penned “That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” and on to, of course, the epically beautiful “The First Ever I Saw Your Face,” if ever there was a debut record that was better than this one, I’d like to know.

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.

 

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (July 17, 2020)

Things are heating up on the album front as there is something for everyone this week. The Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde are front and center with a very solid new record, Kansas is throwing dust to the wind and putting out a surprisingly fresh new album, and there are a lot of new singles that are dangled before us to tempt our ears. And, of course, Rock is the New Roll muse Grace Potter is sporting a hip new hairdo on her Monday Night Twilight Hour series of quarantunes entertaining us as only she can.

Dead Daisies with frontman extraordinaire Glen Hughes give us a bit of a tease of what their new record is going to sound like with a cover tune of Steve Mariott’s “Three Days in the Hole.”

And, the band Dawes even shows up with a sublime version of “I Will Run”.

On top of all that, here are five really cool ones hitting our ear-waves this week.

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.

Massive Wagons – House of Noise

Of course, Rock and Roll is not dead and we have just been waiting for this latest effort from This group of rockers to restore our faith in the dark arts. No reinvention of the wheel going on here just knock you down riff-laden ’70s dream bad-assery that sounds like the devil spawn of Def Leppard and Foghat. The opener “In It Together” is taking the top down and head for the hills driving perfection and “Bangin’ in Your Stereo” self proclaims to rock like it ’73 all the way from the East to the Irish Sea. And hell, who are we to argue.

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.

The Bobby Lees – Skin Suit

Bobby Lees just might be the most raucous b, in all the best of ways, bands that you will hear all year. Delivering bone-jarring Garage Rock as it was meant to be heard, in an actual garage, this group of barely twenty-somethings goes for the jugular on virtually every song. The record begins with a square punch to the jaw with “Move” where we are introduced to frontwoman Sam Quartin in all her glory. Sort of a devil-spawn of Patti Smith and Beth Hart, she seems to be in the middle of some sort of exorcism as she totally grabs the song and whips it into a frenzy. On the second track, “Coin” energy flows fluently through the song and we are introduced to the drummer who has clearly been influenced by Keith Moon, arms flailing in the air and all. And it gets better.

Produced by Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion, songs like “Riddle Daddy,” with perhaps the best-faked, or not, orgasm put on vinyl since Guns ‘N’ Roses “Rocket Queen,” seem to border into going off the rails territory before they are pulled back to earth with joy and abandon in a way that is both refreshing to watch and fascinating to experience.

If the Doors and the Ramones combined forces and Jim Morrison was a woman, the resulting band just might have been The Bobby Lees.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (July 10,2020)

This week, ears down might be the best week of new releases in this crazy year. With some of the long-awaited records just now seeing the light of day alongside some epic quarantine episodes treating us to some sweet cover songs not to mention some real Rock and Roll, there is never a dull moment.

Band of Heathens has been particularly productive with their creatively superb Remote Transmissions quarantine specials with their latest, a cover of Tom Pett’s “Walls” with a zoom inspired video that also features Robert Ellis.

Grace Potter continues to class up the joint with her Monday Night Twilight Hour and her song “Let You Go” from her 2015 album Midnight.

And, Rock is the New Roll favorites The Dunwells have really stepped up their game with almost daily live streams of excellent music.

Here are five excellent new records that are demanding our ear time this week.

Tokyo Motor Fist – Lions

Unfortunate name, great band, the Tokyo Motor Fist sound is not as heavy as the name would imply. More Def Leppard than Led Zeppelin the vibe is early to mid-eighties Rock and Roll. If Night Ranger and The Babies spawned a Rock and Roll love child his name would be Tokyo Motor fist. The band, consisting of former members of Trixter, The Alice Cooper Band, Rainbow, and Blue Oyster Cult has had their Rock credibility stamped long ago and with songs like “Youngblood,” “Around Midnight” and the Joe Eliot inspired “Mean It” the retro bus is gassed up and ready to go.

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.

Rufus Wainwright – Unfollow The Rules

When it comes to producing elegant and lush Pop symphonies there are not many artists that do it as gloriously well as Rufus Wainwright. This makes us extremely glad to experience his return to Pop glory after having been distracted by producing his own opera and releasing a record of Shakespeare’s sonnets. This from a guy that uncannily reproduced Judy Garland’s Live from Carnegie Hall almost note for note. With Unfollow The Rules is a set of lush theatrical gems with Pet Sounds worthy production courtesy of Mitchell Froom who has worked with Sir Paul, Elvis Costello, and Crowded House among others.

The daringly beautiful “Early Morning Madness” will certainly stand up as one of his best works, and “Peaceful Afternoon” is a love song for the new millennium.

Ray Wylie Hubbard – C0-Starring

If there ever was any doubt, and there should be none, that Ray Wylie Hubbard is one of the more respected of the OG honky-tonk songwriters in the game today just take a gander at the guest turns on this, his appropriately monikered new record, Co-Starring.

Ringo Starr, Tyler Bryant, Don Was, Joe Walsh, Chris Robinson, Aaron Lee Tasjan, The Cadillac Three, Pam Tillis, Paula Nelson, Elizabeth Cook, Ashley McBryde, Larkin Poe, Peter Rowan, Ronnie Dunn

Highlights and artful turns of the phrase are everywhere on this record including the drum fill from “Get Back” courtesy of Ringo on “Bad Trick,” and the latest in a long line of audience participation anthems for Ray that will definitely be a part of his live shows in the years to come with R.O.C.K. featuring Tyler Bryant.

Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started

This record has experienced some release delays over the last couple of hectic months, but we can emphatically say that it was worth the wait. Weighing in at a tidy 10 tunes in right about 35 minutes, there is not a wasted note or lyric in the lot. Much more expansive than her self-funded Third Man Records debut release, now, three albums in, Margo Price is certainly hitting her artistic stride. Contemporary sounding with a dusting of retro-ness as opposed to the other way around that seems to be the fashion of the day, Sturgill Simpson has taken over the production reins on this one and the result may be a contender for Americana album of the year.

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (July 3, 2020)

As we celebrate Paul Weller week if there has anything good that has come out of living through a pandemic it is that we have been able to enjoy some of our favorite artists direct from their living rooms. Jesse Dayton has been posting a quarantune show several times per week, Rock is the new Roll Hall of Fame member Grace Potter streams live from her living room, and Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real provide us a song every week that is almost as polished as we would be getting had they recorded the song from a proper studio.

Artists have even been able to release proper albums during the lockdown. J.S. Ondara recorded the highly excellent Tales of Isolation with the stellar “Lockdown on Date Night” a standout, and Texas icon Joe Ely has come out from behind his mask to give us Love in the Midst of Mayhem.

Along for the ride, here are five great records to reach our ears this week.

Paul Weller – On Sunset

Whether it is with The Jam, The Style Council, or with his ever-growing cache of solo albums, Paul Weller is always a must-hear. Much like Nick Lowe, Sir Paul is establishing himself as a torchbearer for the old guard rock and roll fraternity. Returning to his old friends at Polydor Records, the label for both of his former bands, on this, his first record since 2018’s True Meanings, Weller has on full display his love for Folk and 60’s Pop in equal measure. “Baptiste” could be a Steve Winwood single from back in the day, and “Old Father Tyme” is a Steve Mariott special.  As is becoming Paul Weller’s M.O., there is a bit of an electronic flair mixed in with the troubadour folk leanings that keeps things contemporary while never losing that Country Squire edge. On Sunset is a surprise around every turn great listen that should, scratch that will be, on our list of record of the year candidates.

Willie Nelson – First Rose of Spring

Depending on how you count them, Willie Nelson has released over 100 albums, and, amazingly enough, he has not put out a bad record in at least a dozen years. His latest, mostly cover tunes, with a few originals sprinkled in for good measure, just because he can, has him singing wistfully about his certain stage in life. Produced by long time collaborator and friend Buddy Cannon doing the knob twirling, the formula is not messed with. Solid, carefully curated song selections with Willies trademark delivery providing the nuance that makes a song you have heard many times sound even more special and at times brilliant.

Jimmy Dean’s “Just Bummin’ Around” is a gentle and meandering walk in the park, Paycheck’s classic “I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” picks up the tempo and doesn’t stray too far from the original showing that Willie still has his vocal fastball working, and even “Yesterday When I Was Young” is saved from Charles Aznavour Shmaltz with the Teatro treatment that Willie Gives it Here. “I’ll Be Breaking Out Tonight” is a stone-cold country classic expertly delivered by a master at his craft.

Viva Willie!!

Mystery Jets – A Billion Heartaches

This eclectic blend of a band combines Kaleidoscopic Folk, Post Punk, and Indie Rock into an infectious ’60s influenced brand of Rock and Roll. From the earworm worthy song “Hospital Radio” to the delicately soaring “History Has Its Eyes On You” there is something for everyone on this fine record.

bdrmm – Bedroom

This U.K. – based quintet serves up a healthy dose of Dream Pop shoegaze worthy anthems. The combination of surf rock, hazy guitar, and Post-Punk sensibilities displays a template of songs that wander the universe between Brit-Rock, Alternative Rock, and Krautrock at the blink of an ear.

Dream Wife – So You Gonna…

If The Go-Go’s were just a bit more daring and out there, they might have been Dream Wife. Heavy Garage-Punk, Party-Pop anthems along with dance-worthy rave-ups are the order of the day. With their sophomore effort, So You Gonna …., the sound is a bit more polished than their debut, but no less fun. Recorded with an all-female recording crew, there is a bounce to these songs that can take on a “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” flair one moment and a Blondie worthy flare-up the next. This one is a layered listen with rewards waiting around every corner.

 

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (June 26, 2020)

Sure, the picks each week pretty much represent only a place holder until the new Paul Weller record sees the light of day, but there are still plenty of musical morsels to digest in the meantime. If you missed the highly excellent album, Matador, released in 2019 by The Red Rum Club, fear not. The boys from The U.K. are back this year and better than ever as heard on “Eleanor” the highly addictive fresh as a daisy new single.

Northwest hipsters Pink Martini are using their quarantine time quite effectively with the release of their positivity drenched new record, “Let’s Be Friends.”

And, Lukas Nelson and the Promise Of The Real are using the Zoom technology to get the band back together and deliver a fine Quarantune version of their song, “Movie In My Mind.”

Here are five long players that our ears are exploring this week.

HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III

It seems that the sisters Este (Guitar/Bass), Danielle (Vocals/Guitar), and Alana (Guitar/Keyboard), collectively known as HAIM, are just getting better and better with each subsequent release. The songwriting is turned up a notch, the Dixie Chicks meet Fleetwood Mac vocal harmonies are front and center delicious, and the overall vibe of their third proper release, Women In Music Pt. III, is cool, melodic, and oozing with confidence. While “The Steps” has more of a Sheryl Crow essence wafting in the air, “Leaning On You” has crystalline harmonies only sibling sisters can generate. This is a great record worthy of end-of-the-year honors for sure.

Country Westerns – Country Westerns

Enter into this one lightly my friends. These guys might quickly move to the top of your own personal radar as your new favorite band. A Rock and Roll band with a Country sheen, The Country Westerns deliver a party that is slightly more aggressive than American Aquarium, a notch below the ramshackle energy of The Old ’97’s, and just about right to hang with The Gaslight Anthem. Hailing from Nashville it should come as no surprise that the musicianship is par-excellence and with songs like “It’s On Me,” and “TV Light”  singer Joseph Plunkett offers up a cool and raspy vocal performance that would make Paul Westerberg jealous.

Neon Animal – Make No Mistake

As the title suggests, this band of merry musicians loves Rock and Roll. They love it so much that three songs on this scorcher of an album have ‘Rock’ in the title. Picture the most rock of any rock concert you have been to, multiply that by three joints and two six-packs, and you just might have the essence of this band.

The Vacant Lots – Interzone

The Vacants Lots produce some of the best hipster punk our ears have come across in a long while. Part Joy Division and plenty of Billy Idol with some Stooges thrown in for good measure on the electro-goth tune “Endless Rain.” The 8 songs compacted into a tight 30 minutes on this one will provide the perfect blast to the past soundtrack taking you back to the simpler days. You know, when you had hair.

Bananagun – The True Story Of Bananagun

Led by flutist and bandleader Nick Van Bakel, this debut slice of Kaleidoscope Rock covers all of the bases mixing in Afrobeat, Funk, Exotica, Indie Pop, Go-Go beats, and Tropicalia into a gumbo of aural delight. “Bang Go the Bongos” leads this off with an exuberant pop burst that will have your feet moving and your ears spinning and “She Now ” evokes the spirit of Jorge Ben. And, if parrot and kookaburra calls are your thing, then “Bird Up!” is your jam.

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (June 19, 2020)

You know the year is moving along swimmingly when there is a new Bob Dylan record released, a long lost nugget sees the light of day courtesy of Neil Young and his lost classic album Homegrown along with a great new song and accompanying video from Willie Nelson.

Here are five albums that perk up our ears this week.

Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways

With his first album of new material since 2012’s Tempest, on this, his latest, Dylan is once again in a fine form combining Blues, Folk, Country, Rockabilly, and Gospel with a bit of protest thrown in for good measure. As we have come to expect, the songwriting on this one is a master-class level history and pop culture lesson with each verse.

There are Road-House Blues on “Crossing the Rubicon,” Jimmy Reed inspired Blues on “Goodbye Jimmy Reed,” and on “Key West (Philosopher Pirate) we are taken on a stripped-down 9:00 journey down the acknowledgment path of mortality. And, the epic “Murder Most Foul” brings us face to face with the Kennedy Assassination for good measure.

This one might be the best album of the year.

Whitesnake – The Rock Album

Full disclosure, here in the Rock is the New Roll H.Q. we are big fans of David Coverdale going back to his Deep Purple days as well as with his band Whitesnake. Released on double white vinyl this latest record is the first in the Red (Love Songs), White (Rock Songs), and Blue (Blues Songs)  trilogy all set to be released in the next 18 months.  This first outing includes songs originally released between 1984 and 2011 and are pulled from six Whitesnake studio albums. The songs have been revisited, remixed, and remastered making this album a perfect beginner’s entryway into the catalog of one of the greatest rock and roll bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Many of the hits are here including “Still of the Night,” “Judgment Day,” and “Here I Go Again.” For completists, the record includes a remixed version of “All Or Nothing” from Slide It In that features additional guitars along with an alternate arrangement of “Tell Me How.”

And, of course, video vixen Tawney Kitaen is back with an enhanced HD version of the famous video for “Here I Go Again” which is worth the price of admission alone on this one.

Bad Touch – Kiss The Sky

One of the more recent additions to our “Rock and Roll is Not Dead” list of bands, Bad touch is a 5-piece Classic Rock inspired band that based on their sound could have easily come from Alabama or Muscle Shoals Alabama instead of across the band in the U.K. where they are actually from.

Drawing inspiration from The Black Crowes, The Faces, as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Touch should be a musical force to reckon that surely will break out in a big way in 2020. “Let Go” is Black Crowes inspired Blues-Rock standout, and the title track “Kiss The Sky” is a bit more of a rocker with singer Stevie Westwood doing his best Glen Hughes impersonation. Covering Kiki Dee’s “I’ve Got The Music In Me” may seem like an odd choice, but here it works quite nicely and serves to show off the versatility of one of the best new Rock and Roll bands to come around in quite some time.

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Fresh off her critically acclaimed collaboration on the Better Oblivion Community Center record with Conor Oberst. Phoebe Bridgers is back in short order with her unique brand of Folk-Pop elegance. The record is a meandering beauty with hushed vocals and lush arrangements with lyrics that can be dark at times against a template of sunshine melodies. The mood is pensive in places, especially on “Halloween” and jaunty in others as displayed on the travelogue inspired “Kyoto.” Exquisitely produced as tight as the skin on an apple this is an elegant release with plenty of high points and very few low ones.

Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer – Not Our First Goat Rodeo

As a follow up to their 2011 Grammy-winning album Goat Rodeo Sessions cellist Y-Yo Ma, mandolinist Chris Thile bassist Edgar Meyer, and fiddler Stuart Duncan have gathered the band back together for the appropriately named new album, Not Our First Goat Rodeo.

Each musician, on their own,  has a unique skill in crossing genres, and on this beautiful exercise in harmonic convergence, their comradery is felt in every note. Some songs like “Waltz Whitman” would fit in quite nicely scoring an episode of Deadwood, while others the likes of “Voila,” would be perfect at an Appalachian Hoe-Down. When vocals are called for the ethereal voiced Aife O’Donovan fills the bill quite gracefully on “The Trappings.”

You will be a much better person for listening to this beautiful piece of work. If there are Grammy awards given out in 2020 look for this collaboration to garner at least one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (June 12, 2020)

The weeks just keep moving along as we wait in anticipation of the new Chuck Prophet record as well as the new release from Paul Weller. But, while the album scene may be lacking a bit the singles and the cover songs seem to fill up the airwaves quite nicely.

Bettye LaVette delivers a bone-chilling rendition of Nina Simone’s epic song “Strange Fruit.”

Laura Marling jumps in on the collection of songs from Peaky Blinders with Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand,” and Austin’s Black Pumas cover Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” in fine fashion.

Here are five cool records that have hit us between the ears this week.

Norah Jones – Pick Me Up Off The Floor

Around the time that Norah Jones was recording her 2016 album, Day Breaks, she recorded several songs with different collaborators and released them as a series of singles gathering them all together in an album released in 2018 on the record, Begin Again. And now, in 2020 the rest of the songs recorded for those sessions have seen the light of day with her latest album, Pick Me Up Off The Floor. The overall vibe of the record leans to the laid-back side with her sly jazz sensibility infused with the pop flourishes that Norah is known for.  “I’m Alive”,  a song that features Jeff Tweedy is a highlight. This one makes for a fine Sunday Morning listen.

Built To Spill – Built To Spill Plays The Songs of Daniel Johnston

In 2017 the band Built To Spill served as the backing band for the late Daniel Johnston for a couple of shows. The shows went over so well and the band had so much fun playing the songs of troubled Austin troubadour that they decided to hone the songs down a bit and release a full album. The record features mostly Johnston’s late 90’s work and captures the worn weary pathos of the artist pretty much perfectly.

Larkin Poe – Self Made Man

Larkin Poe, a band comprised mostly of sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, whose great grandfather is Edgar Allan Poe, delivers a healthy dose of Southern Roots rock in the Allman Brothers mold. Their latest record, Self Made Man, rocks a bit more than their previous efforts with shades of Southern Rock, Chicago Blues, and even a bit of Americana Country entering the song cycle at unexpected times. The choruses carry a lot of hooks and the guitar work is aggressive and first-rate particularly on “Back Down South” where guest guitar slinger Tyler Bryant does the heavy lifting.

John Craigie – Asterisk The Universe

This record is one of those pleasant ambling affairs that you would expect from the like of J.J. Cale or Ry Cooder. Recorded in Northern California at the home of the folk group Rainbow Girls the soft and pleasant Americana vibe wafting through every song here will take you back to a simpler time. You know, 2019.

Andrea and Mud – Bad News Darlin’

An eclectic listen, to say the least, Bad News Darlin’, the latest record courtesy of Andrea Mud is some sort of voodoo hybrid of Honky Tonk and Surf music. The lonesome twang has a late-night noir feel to it that is part spooky and wholly cool. The song “Hellhounds” would have been perfect in an episode of Trueblood and Birmingham, Al 8:30 Am is a Bakersfield Sound gem.

 

 

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (June 5, 2020)

Just when we get ready to turn the corner into summer it seems that things are cooling off a bit on the new release front. Lady Gaga is out with her new one, Chromatica, and Nick Lowe continues to dribble out new songs with a new E.P. that features Los Straightjackets as his back up band, but otherwise, there are not too many entrants that will be making noise at the end of the year when the best-of lists come together.

On the cool side, however, many artists are putting out some really strong singles as they wait until they can tour to put out another actual full-length record.

The best of those this week include Jonathan Wilson’s cover of “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” the great Glam Queen Cherie Currie along with Brie Darling belting out their timely acoustic version of “Get Together” and Rock is the new New Roll favorite Zephaniah Ohara 0n “All American Singer” tells you exactly how he feels.

Here a five really nice records we culled from this week’s crop.

Dion – Blues With Friends

Dion, yes the “Runaround Sue” Dion, when he is not strutting down Broadway as the reigning king of New York, has reinvented himself a bad-ass bluesman. And here, on his latest record, Blues With Friends, the self-proclaimed wanderer jumps deep into the blues pool with a bevy of impressive friends including Joe Bonamassa, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbens, and Stray Cat Setzer to name only three. Highlights include the slowed-down “Can’t Start Over Again with Jeff Beck, “I Got Nothin” with Van Morrison and “Song For Sam Cooke (Here In America)” that features Paul Simon. Samantha Fish and Bruce Springsteen also join the party that could end up in a late-night jam for best Blues record of the year.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways To New Italy

With their 2018 record, Hope Downs, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever honed their three-guitar attack down to diamond-like perfection. And here, with their latest, the Aussie Quintet has only improved with age. The vibe is gloriously cool 80’s Jangle-Pop with a distinct early-era R.E.M. essence wafting in the breeze. Most of the tunes presented here are up-tempo high energy affairs with the notable exception of “Sunglasses at the Wedding,” a breezy ballad that sets a contemplative tone. The closing song, “The Cool Chance” is a Rock is the New Roll favorite.

Brigid Mae Power – Above The Water

Brigid Mae Power delivers a solid set of highly accessible Irish Folk inspired songs to her sophomore record, Head Above The Water. The subtle psychedelic undertones throughout this record help to create a different listening experience song to song. There are several highlights to savor here with “I Had To Keep My Circle Small” a definite stand-out track. This one is for fans of Judee Sill and Joni Mitchell.

Joe Louis Walker – Blues Comin’ On

Another scorching blues record out this week is the Joe Louis Walker release, Blues Comin On. Head-scratchingly ignored as one of the best of the contemporary bluesmen unless you are in the Blues fraternity. Joe Louis  Walker broke through in 1986 with his stone-cold classic Cold Is The Night but has never really been able to enter the slipstream of the mainstream always flying directly below Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and even Robert Cray on the Blues radar.

But, here with his latest record, hopefully, things will change. On this one, he delivers an eclectic set of blues and Rock and Roll numbers with a dazzling array of co-conspirators that include  Jorma Kaukonen, young guitar-slinger Eric Gales, laid back cool guy Keb’ Mo’, Albert Lee, along with Zevon side-man Waddy Wachtel along with several others. The result here is not as cohesive as the Dion Blues record might be but the sum of the musical parts is a highly rewarding listen its own right.

Sports Team – Deep Down Happy

Any group that takes themselves less than seriously singing songs that celebrate Ashton Kutcher, flip phones, and the joys of British seaside resorts have got to provide a pretty interesting listen. And, these blokes from the U.K. deliver the goods in fine fashion with their debut record, Deep Down Happy.

The influences are clear on this one ranging from “Panic In Detroit” era David Bowie to The Ramones and The Velvet Underground. There is an energy running through every song that will make your ears perk up and pay attention.