Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (5/14/21)

Do not adjust your ears, this week is the best release week of the year by a far stretch, Paul Weller, The Black Keys, The Steel Woods, Even the ever-prolific Phoebe Bridgers is out with some new stuff. Folks we haven’t heard from a while in Travis Tritt and Alan Jacking are popping up. This abundance of musical riches is pretty much criminal.

The Vaccines are starting to drip some new music out ahead of an upcoming record with their latest earworm of a single, “Headphones Baby”.

And sure, we here at Rock is the New Roll are huge fans of Blackberry Smoke, but our fandom is reaching new heights with this collaboration with Warren Haynes, “All Rise Again.”

The Struts, one of the bands that prove that Rock is not dead, have just released an epic version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Paul Weller – Fat Pop Vol. 1

The Modfather is back, and it’s like he never left. Despite releasing about a record per year, Weller never fails to bring the musical goods. A bright cheerful record even amid these gloomy times, the entire album seems fresh and original with no sense of languishing in the textures of his prior output.

Never sticking to a specific genre, the song “True” has an ’80’s Bowie vibe to it while “Glad Times” veers a bit into Nick Cave territory and the opener “Cosmic Fringes” seems to carry a bit of Devo in it’s DNA.

Don’t sleep on the Steve Winwood splendor of “Shades of Blue” as it is to our ears the best song on the album. Further reflection will be needed, of course, but after finishing up this record with the last two slowed down and exquisitely produced ballads, “In Better Times” and “Still Goes The Stream,” the votes are in. This one is likely to go down as one of the Modfather’s best.

Nancy Wilson – You and Me

With her first proper album since 2009, Nancy Wilson walks that road between tender Heart ballads and solid Pop-laden rockers quite nicely albeit carefully. Sort of a spur-of-the-moment decision to put out a record, her sparkling voice shines through much more than her guitar. Two of the covers she chooses here are interesting with her version of “The Rising” definitely hitting the mark while her mostly tepid take on the Boxer with Sammy Hagar in tow, lacking in passion and intensity, missing quite badly. 

Interestingly enough, “4 Edward” an instrumental tribute to Eddie Van Halen, would have worked much better as an introduction to a full song rather than as the set closer on this one. The sole real rocker here, “Party at the Angel Ballroom” with Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins lending an assist along with Duff McKagan should be played once, then permission is granted to pretty much ignore it. 

If there is a highlight here, The Cranberries “Dreams” would fit the bill, but overall Nancy Wilson still hasn’t released that ‘good rockin’ tonight’ guitar-based scorcher we know she has in her. 

Matt Berry – The Blue Elephant

By some stretch, the grooviest album of the year, Matt Berry takes a break from his gig as a vampire in What They Do in the Shadows to release another set of interestingly throw-back inspired songs that could have easily been the soundtrack of Austin Power’s bachelor party.

With the perfect blend of vocal tones and go-go style instrumentations, Berry rides the hipster wave to perfection going over the top when necessary and dialing things back at just the right moments. The psychedelic guitar employed here is right out of Haight Ashbury, case in point the hippy-dippy “Now Disappear.”

With a Burt Bacharach production palate, the arrangements are near perfect placing the organ solos, hipster horns, and spooky vocals in just the right places at just the right time. 

The instrumental “Safer Passage” is Rundgren’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends” inspired, and “Like Stone” could have been a Small Faces classic. Matt Berry has never made a bad record, but this one is ears and shoulders above anything else he has released to date.

The Black Keys – Delta Kream

Let’s take care of the elephant in the room right from the jump. We here in the offices of Rock is the New Roll are huge fan-people of Dan Auerbach, The Black Keys, and any product, CeeLo’s record a notable exception, that Dan’s studio Easy Eye Sound releases. Now that that is out of the way Delta Kream, the latest from The Keys, is a down and dirty, greasy love-fest to the Mississippi delta blues. Named after an iconic William Eggleston photo that adorns the cover of the album, drummer Carney along with Auerbach apply their Garage-Stomp Rock onto songs by Mississippi blues legends Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Kimbrough, and Mississippi Fred McDowell among others.

Recorded in one single ten-hour session, the Key’s laid-back delta swagger is perfect for this set of roadhouse-worthy tunes. From the lead-off song “Crawling Kingsnake” to the slinky Kimbrough song “Walk With Me” and on to the Tony Joe worthy take on Burnside’s “Poor Boy A Long Way From Home” this is about as close as you can get without actually being there live at Kimmy “Duck” Holmes’ Mississippi Juke joint.

Babe Rainbow – Changing Colours

Just engulf yourself in the bassline on the song “Ready For Tomorrow,” from the latest Babe Rainbow album Changing Colours, and, like us, you will be all in, chips to the center of the table. Fun, bouncy, and vibrant is the order of the day from this group of Aussies with “Rainbow Rock” and “California” already reserving themselves steady rotation on your summer playlist that you have yet to create.

“Curl Free” would have been a perfect fit on The Beach Boys Holland  L.P. and there is a hint of Burrito Brothers Americana wafting in the air on “New Zealand Spinach.” Start with the opener “Zeitgeist” and your ear-time will be rewarded with one of the best listens of the year.

Rock is the New Roll: The Top 100 Albums of 2019 (30-21)

Here it is, the long-awaited list of the best albums of 2019. It has been a really great year for music. We heard from a couple of deceased legends in Harry Nilsson and Leonard Cohen, were treated with new records from Texas Honky Tonk legends Jack Ingram, Corb Lund, and Dale Watson, and bright lights shone for the first time with a bevy of new artists to discover including the one name wonders Lizzo and Yola.

Rock is not dead with White Reaper, Drugdealer and Black Country Communion all inviting us to a party like it’s 1979. And of course, the singer-songwriter is back. The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is back and better than ever and Rock is the New Roll favorite Tom Russell gave us a history lesson in 11 songs with October in the Railroad Earth.

This year we will be releasing our top 100 list 10 tasty gems at a time, so sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy the ear-pleasing top 100 records of the year.

30. The Drunken Hearts – Wheels of the City

With their hardscrabble approach to Americana, The Drunken Hearts lay down an earthy blend of Bluegrass, Outlaw, and Americana that would make Jamey Johnson and Cody Jinks proud. Lead singer Andrew McConathy has a bit of Michael Stipe by way of Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker in his voice, particularly on the title track. The band mixes rowdy anthems with broad soundscapes on a record that will capture your ears with subsequent listens.

29. Milk Carton Kids – The Only Ones

Be ready to lay down some chill vibes with the new Milk Carton Kids Record, The Only Ones. If you could create a Frankenstein duo with one member of Simon and Garfunkel and one of the brothers Everly, the resulting spawn would give you The Milk Carton Kids. At a tidy 7 songs, this one is a perfect listen for that spare half-hour in an otherwise hectic day.

28. Durand Jones & The Indications – American Love Call

A vintage 70’s R&B sound with a modern-day political bent. With dual vocals, Durand Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer, Jackie Wilson along with Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions will be an immediate comparison. This a terrific record and would have been made by Marvin Gaye if he was still alive.

27. White Reaper – You Deserve Love

heading towards the head of the pack on our list of 2019’s favorite records, White Reaper with their latest release hits that sweet spot between Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy. From the opening track, “Headwind” that sounds a bit like The Killers in Glam mode, to the twin guitar attack on “Might Be Right” this is an old school Rock and Roll record for the new generation.

26. Orville Peck – Pony

Once you get by the Mystery Man face-veil gimmick there is some real substance here. With a vibe that harkens back to the Glen Campbell glory days, Peck sounds like a voodoo mix of Chris Isaak and Roy Orbison with a Tarantino soundtrack playing in the background.

25. The Mavericks – Play The Hits

News Flash! Raul Malo Can Sing. And here, he does it in exquisite fashion. In places where keeps the arrangements close to the bone like he does on “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” he shines, and things get even cooler when The Mavericks get jiggy with the essence of the songs they are covering as displayed on the John Anderson classic “Swingin'” where mid-song they morph into “Feelin’ Alright.” You likely have never heard anyone cover “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” any better than what is presented here.

24. North Mississippi All-Stars – 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 waving 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.

23. Babe Rainbow – Today

Another album with strong Laurel Canyon vibes. “Morning Song” would have been a hit duet for Herbie Mann and Donovan in 1965.

22. Peter Bruntnell – The King of Madrid

Flying just underneath the Americana radar Peter Bruntell really should be better known. His latest The King of Madrid is more of a 60’s psychedelic pop record with a bit of a Byrds essence wafting in the air. The song “Dinosaur” is even a not so distant cousin of “Last Train to Clarksville.” Don’t hold it against him that on “Lucas” he sounds like Steve Miller. Cult status be damned. This guy is seriously good.

21. The Limboos – Baia

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 ’60s. 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.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five More Albums Released Today (September 20, 2019)

Bruce Cockburn – Crowing Ignites

Bruce Cockburn is considered to be a National treasure, as well he should be. While this set of beautiful instrumentals won’t serve to bring him any new fans, this should serve as a calming Sunday Morning record.

Charlie Crockett – The Valley

In his distinct Western drawl Charlie Crockett channels his inner Texan with a Western Swing influenced two-stepper of an album.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Terms of Surrender

M.C. Taylor doing business as Hiss Golden Messenger has created another stunner of an album. Sparse yet tender rules the day here with more than a little social consciousness bubbling up to the surface.

Babe Rainbow – Today

Another album with strong Laurel Canyon vibes. “Morning Song” would have been a hit duet for Herbie Mann and Donovan in 1965.

Andrew Combs – Ideal Man

There is a touch of late era Beatles vibe to this latest album from Andrew Combs. “Firestarter” is a mellow wanderer with a startling sub-text, and “Born Without A Clue” is the story of a man looking in from the outside.