Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week: May 7, 2021

It just wouldn’t be fair to compare this week’s musical montages to the gloriousness of last week. But, there is still plenty of good music to savor sending your mind on an endless journey. Rock is the new Roll favorite Walker Lukens is performing songs from his Willie Nelson tribute album in honor of Willie’s birthday.

Psychedelic popsters Babe Rainbow are front and center with “Ready For Tomorrow,” a freshly-minted single in advance of more nuggets to come later in the year.

and, Delta Kream, The new record from the Black Keys will be zooming towards our ears on May 14th. The video is terrific. Recorded at Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ juke joint in Mississippi the song features Kenny Brown, R.L. Burnside’s guitarist, and Eric Deaton, Junior Kimbrough’s bass player.

And, if all of that hipness is not enough, here are five new records we particularly enjoy that were released this week.

Weezer – Van Weezer

Just when we ponder leaving the land of Weezer for a bit of a respite from the band that seems to be rivaling The Flaming Lips and Ty Seagall in their prolificness these days they come out with a record that sets our ears on fire with a perfect blend of ’80’s Arena Rock and Power Pop.

Using Van Halen as a spirit animal rather than simply mimicking their sound, the record, weighing in at a taut 31 minutes, is full of festival-worthy anthems, most notably the rousing “All The Good Ones,” and the sparkling Power Pop Fountains of Wayne inspired “Beginning of the End.” 

More Bon Jovi with a side order of Cheap Trick than Van Halen to our ears, this one will likely be the Rock record that is in heavy rotation on your playlists this summer.

Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, John Randall – The Marfa Tapes

Retreating to a ranch just outside of Marfa, Texas friends Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, and John Randall set out to recapture the D-I-Y spirit of old school Marfa along with its sister less gentrified cousin city of Terlingua made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker. The songs, a couple written for this project while others were culled from a group of tunes that did not quite fit on various albums, were all recorded literally around a campfire with the crackling of the embers left in the mix. 

The demo feel of the recordings gives the album a warm and intimate feeling that is enhanced by the obvious respect the trio has for each other as artists and most importantly as songwriters. Trading Leads, Miranda shines on “Ghost,” and the closing John Randall lead “Amazing Grace,” no not that one, is a perfect sign-off to a near-perfect minimalist record.

Tony Joe White – Smoke From The Chimney

Dan Auerbach and his cronies at Easy Eye Sound have done it again with the release of Smoke From The Chimney, a set of long lost demos from Tony Joe White polished and shined with assistance from Jody White, Tony Joe’s Son. Taking a set of tapes that included only voice and guitar Auerbach added a full band and pedal steel along with some of the best session guys in Nashville to bring the songs to life.

The elegant sounding “Del Rio, You’re Making Me Cry” would have been a perfect George Strait Vehicle, “Bubba Jones” is as good of a story song you will hear this side of Jerry Reed, and “Boot Money” is Classic Tony Joe White, the king of Swamp Rock.

Alex Chilton – Live On Beale Street

Recorded as a benefit for Memphis legend Fred Ford in 1999 Alex Chilton enlisted the Hi Rhythm Section, the band that backed up Al Green on all of his ’70s hits, to join him on stage. The resulting magic just may be the best live Chilton recording ever recorded.

The opener “Boogie Shoes” made famous by K.C. and the Sunshine band is a perfect opener that introduces the listener to one of the more underrated artists of all time. When the trumpet kicks in you will severely lament the fact that you were not there to hear this magic live and in person. Since this was a somewhat hastily put together appearance there were no Big Star or Box Tops songs in the set list with Chilton sticking to a set of R&B and Rock Cover songs that the band wrapped themselves in as if they had been playing these songs all of their lives, which might actually by the case. Far from mailing it in, the vocals are energetic and strong especially on “634-5789,” and when the band takes things up a half-step magic, ensues. 

Little Richard’s “Lucille” and Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” are the requisite Scorchers with Alex sitting in the groove like he was born to it, and the closer “Trying To Live My Life Without You” is a perfect ending to a magical live album.

Kayak – Out of this world

Flying just under the Yes, ELP, King Crimson radar the band Kayak while famous in the Netherlands despite having a couple of hits including “Want You To Be Mine” and “Phantom of the Night” never really grabbed the American Ears. Thankfully, after repeated listens of their latest record, Out of This World, a grievous wrong has finally been righted.

Sounding almost exactly like they did back in their ’70s heyday, the band sounds as sparkling as ever. Evoking the mantra of “Even in the Quietest Moment” era Supertramp in places, David Bowie on the song “Waiting,” and classic Emerson Lake and Palmer on “Red Rag To A Bull” this one is epic just when it needs to be and wistfully playful in the 10cc mold when a softening of the bombastic edges is needed just when things seem to be going over the top. 

This one is very much a “what did I just hear” listen that will require multiple spins to properly greet the return of an old friend.

Rock is the New Roll: The Top 100 Albums of 2019 (40-31)

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 Balck 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.

40. Bedouine – Bird Songs of a Killjoy

’60s Folk meets 70’s Country-Funk on this one, Azniv Korkejian performing under the name Bedouine delivers a sparse yet eclectic vibe with a slight touch of bossa nova cool that makes things all the more interesting.

39. Jack Ingram – Ridin’ High Again

The album title along with every song on the record pays tribute to Jerry Jeff Walker and Texas hill country. “Straight Outta Jail” is a Lyle Lovett inspired gem and the sublime version of “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train” is the stuff Texas Legends are made from. Welcome back, Jack Ingram.

38. Big Search – Slow Fascination

If you are a fan of the Laurel Canyon Beach Boys West Coast vibe then the new record, Slow Fascination, by Big Search, definitely is your jam. Big Search is the solo moniker for Matthew Popieluch, who, when he is not sitting in as a sideman for bands like Papercuts and Fools Gold is creating lush Indie Pop orchestrations. Pianos and acoustic guitars blend delightfully with soaring harmonies and intricate arrangements.

37. Chuck Mead – Close To Home

With more than a passing homage to Chuck Berry, Honky Tonks, and good old Rock and Roll, this record could have come right from Sun Studios circa 1957.

36. Steve Earle – Guy

I would guess when Steve Earle stood on Bob Dylan’s coffee table and proclaimed Townes Van Zant the best songwriter ever that Guy Clark must have been a close second. This collection of songs is nothing short of terrific. With his band playing just the right notes at just the right times, the song “Old Friends” with cameos from Terry Allen, Jerry Jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and Jo Harvey Allen is worth the price of admission alone.

35. Marvin Gaye – You’re the Man

for some strange reason, this album never saw the light of day when it was originally recorded in 1972. Billed as the “Lost” album, this one was recorded between Marvin Gaye’s masterwork, “What’s Going On” and 1973’s “Let’s Get It On. Reviews of the day called it ” A mostly disjointed affair”,  which explains why it never reached proper release standards, But, when you stack it against what we are exposed to on the present-day music scene, it is a top of the pops effort.

34. Ex Hex – It’s Real

Ex Hex is Mary Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris, all veterans of the Indie Rock scene over the last decade or so. Sort of a more punk version of the Pretenders, the crunching guitars and the glittering sheen that is filtered throughout the record will have you spinning back to those days when Rock and Roll was nothing but fun.

33. 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 band’s best record to date.

32. The Reconstructed – Great North Wind

Whoever said that the only good music comes out of Austin, the left or the right coast, or New York, have obviously never heard of The Reconstructed, the best thing to come out of Southern Maine since the lobster. Their latest record, Great North Wind, is a melodic stunner of an album with delicious hooks, sweet vocals, and enough of a Power Pop sensibility to make Alex Chilton jealous. The opener, “Cross Talk” is what the stork would have delivered if the parents were the Bands Crazy Horse and The Bodeans, and the title track shares some DNA with Jason Isbell and the 400 unit. “Wrapped” sounds like it could have been a R.E.M. B-side, “50 Minute Records” features next-level songwriting, and “Talking With Your Ghost” rhythmically carries a bit of a John Mellencamp torch.

In short, while bits, pieces, and resemblances of other great bands might be salted here and on this record, don’t be mistaken, this album is a wholly unique unicorn that should be reaching more ears.

31. Matt Andersen – Halfway Home By Morning

This melting pot of a record has it all. Gritty Muscle Shoals Soul, Heartfelt Americana, Gritty Blues, and good old Country. Recorded live in Nashville in the same studio that Jerry Lee Lewis and Emmylou Harris made magic, this one is leaps and bounds better than his also excellent 2016 release Honest Man, and that, in itself, is no small feat.