Five Cool Ones: Five New Platters Released This Week (October 15, 2021)

Since everything is just a placeholder until the new Deep Purple record comes out later in the year, there is a chill in the air as a new Coldplay album hits our ear-waves this week. And, it’s not terrible.

The ironically monikered Southern groover Handsome Jack has a new song and video out with “Got You Where I Want To” that would make Doug Sahm proud.

If you were lucky enough to have Hayes Carll draft you a beer at The Acoustic Cafe in Galveston you would have known early on what an electric talent he is. For the rest of us, we get to bathe in his immense talent courtesy of this latest release, “Help Me Remember.”

And, there is great news on the horizon. The great collaboration of David Coverdale and Jimmy Page has four previously unreleased songs set to see the light of day later in the year. In the meantime, here is a bit of a blast from the MTV past. 

And, if all of that is not enough to tickle your musical fancy, here are some tasty morsels that we particularly love from this week’s batch of goodness.

TK & The Holy Know-Nothings – The Incredible Heat Machine

Don’t let the fact that Taylor Kingman, frontman and major-domo for TK & The Holy Know-Nothings, self glosses his band’s music as “psychedelic doom boogie” stop you from giving this one a couple of turns around the dance floor. 

From the opener, “Frankenstein” a Doug Sahm fronting Whiskeytown vibe grabs you and staples your ears to the speakers. “Serenity Prayer” is Steve Earl at his rebellious best, and “Laid Down and Cried” sounds like it comes from the outlaw spawn of Chris Stapleton and Merle Haggard. And, who among us hasn’t been too stoned to find their beer as lamented on “I Lost My Beer,” a song that would have been perfectly handled by Jerry Jeff Walker or Bobby Bare.

If you are looking for just one recent-vintage cosmic cowboy outlaw country circle of life album to place on your mantle, look no further than this Old 97’s by way of Jerry Jeff Walker-inspired gem.

Jason Isbell – Georgia

Inspired by his promise to record a tribute album to the state of Georgia should the election turn to a democratic blue, Jason Isbell puts politics aside to deliver a solid setlist that pays tribute to the songs and artists associated with his home state. 

Highlights abound on this one. The Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ staple “Honeysuckle Blue” is perfect in the hands of Isbell and his 400 unit, and Brittney Spencer offers up a gender turnaround and slays “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

The two R.E.M covers presented here, “Driver 8” and “Nightswimming,” as perfectly crafted as they are, seem to be minor cogs on a wheel of excellence. While the wildcard here is a Santana-tinged version of Allman’s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” the return of Brittney Spencer on “Midnight Train To Georgia” tells the tale the most poignantly.  

Sure, if you are inclined to pick nits, you can lament that “Georgia On My Mind” is not included in the set, but that would be short-sighted. By going deep with Cat Powers’ “Cross Bones Style” and “Kid Fears” by the Indigo Girls, there is no doubt that this album was passionately curated from the song selections to the choice of collaborators.

Joy Crookes – Skin

 A sure-fire candidate for debut record of the year Joy Crookes’ new record is a blend of Amy Winehouse neo-soul, Nina Simone sultry jazz, and the silky smooth vocals of Ella Fitzgerald.

Standouts “When You Are Mine” and “Wild Jasmine” offer more contemporary song diva fare, while “Poison,” along with the title track, is a girl and her piano offering up some late-night noir.

Especially powerful is “Unlearn You,” a song about the lasting effects of domestic violence. Give this one a spin or three on your turntable, and your ears and soul will be exponentially rewarded.

Pokey LaFarge – In The Blossom of Their Shade

Breezy Americana is the order of the day on this, the seventh and latest record from Pokey LaFarge, In The Blossom of Their Shade. With a bit of an old-timey New Orleans vibe, the music takes you down a country road swerving to avoid cows and trying not to miss a turn causing you to drive into an alligator-infested swamp.

Even when he visits Holland as he does on “Rotterdam,” we get the city of his imagination instead of the real thing. “Drink of You” has the delicate aroma of a Rufus Wainwright song, and “Yo-Yo” has a Caribbean tilt to it that would be best served on the beach next to a fire. 

With touchstones that include Western cinemascope, 50’s exotica, 60’s doo-wop, and 40’s big band, it is a wonder that LaFarge can meld these disparate styles into a contemporary tapestry the way he does on this record. If you are up for a road trip the likes of which you likely have not experienced since riding with Ryan and Tatum O’Neill in Paper moon, it’s time to begin your journey.

The Courettes – Back In Mono

What year is it? Is it time to put on my ascot and get ready for Austin Powers’ bachelor party? Yes, on all fronts, courtesy of The Courettes and their latest release, Back In Mono, a record that is the grooviest album of the year, or of recent years for that matter.

With the ghost of Phil Spector dancing all over the mixing boards, this Danish and Brazilian garage rock combo inhabit rather than imitate the Shangri-La spirit of every girl group you have ever heard from The Supremes to the Runaways. From the intensely clever “Want You! Like A Cigarette” to the Ramones evoking “Night Time (The Boy of Mine)” every song delivered to your ears is go-go club cool.

Don’t sleep on “R.I.N.G.O.” as a novelty song soul sucker. It might very well be, but strangely, it works. “Until You’re Mine” is a late-night voodoo hip-shaker, and “Trash Can Honey” will remind you of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” with a Flamin Groovies makeover. And, once the Duane Eddy guitar fuzz kicks in on “Hop The Twig,” it’s game on, everyone on the dance floor!

Best Albums of 2020 (So Far)

While it is true that we have not been able to experience as much music as we did at the mid-point of last year while we wait for records by Chuck Prophet, Willie Nelson, Paul Weller, and Margo Price to see the light of day, there are still plenty of musical morsels to savor so far in 2020.

01.) 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.

02.) American Aquarium – Lamentations

This is a band that quite simply is getting better and better with each subsequent release. Their 2018 record, Things Change, was pretty great, and the band has even turned it up a notch with their latest, Lamentations, part Whiskeytown by way of Jason Isbell era Drive-By Truckers and part Bruce Springsteen inspired storytelling. With the knob-twirling production of former dB’s frontman Chris Stamey, this one is one of the better releases of the year, any genre. The opener, “Me+Mine (Lamentations)” is epic in all its 6 minute and 40 seconds glory.

03.) Mark Lanegan – Straight Songs of Sorrow

Mark Lanegan has a dark poetic sensibility that brings to mind Nick Cave or Scott Walker. His latest record coming on the heels of the release of his no holds barred bare-knuckle autobiography features guest turns from the likes of John Paul Jones, Greg Dulli, and Ed Harcourt.

04.) 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.

05.) Jason Isbell – Reunions

As expected, the new Jason Isbell record is spectacular. His band, The Four Hundred Unit is one of the cracker-jack units in the business, and this one might surpass Southeastern as the best album in the Jason Isbell canon given enough listening time. Extra credit to Jason for releasing the album exclusively to independent record stores one week in advance of delivering the finished product to the unwashed masses.

06.) Marcus King – El Dorado

Proving in full measure that he can step out from The Marcus King Band and show that he is no guitar whiz one-trick pony, Marcus King shows his songwriting chops and his ability to deliver roots-based melodic masterpieces. Blues and Southern Soul is the order of the day and the top of the mark backing band provided by producer Dan Auerbach and his team at Easy Eye Sound is ‘Wrecking Crew’ worthy. What this record lacks in King’s trademark guitar-shredding is more than made up with the emotional depth and heartfelt vintage soul of an artist that will be on our radar for many years to come.

07.) Mapache – From Liberty Street

This one has so many Laurel Canyon vibes wafting all over it the record might as well have been recorded on Joni Mitchell’s couch. This, their sophomore record is a breezy harmony-ladened gem.

08.) 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.

09.) Ashley McBryde – Never Will

As official members of the Ashley McBryde fan club from the days when she was hanging out in “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” we are calling our shot now. Never Will, her latest record will be on many of the year-end best-of lists, genre be damned. Rocking it up a bit more than her prior efforts yet maintaining her 80’s ladies charm, this one will put her right up there with Lilly Hiatt and Margo Price in the reigning queen of Country music sweepstakes.

10.) Elijah Ocean – Blue Jeans & Barstools

Opening for the likes of Dale Watson and Charley Crockett this L.A. based by way of Maine troubadour should very soon be carving his own Outlaw Country niche right alongside Chris Stapelton, Whitey Morgan, and Tennessee Jet. His latest record, Blue Jeans and Barstools will be on the shortlist for Texas-style Hony Tonk record of the year. With highlights like the title track, “Blue Jeans & Barstools” his tribute to Buck and Dwight on “Bring Back That Bakersfield Sound,” and “I Left My One Spot (Back at the Five Spot)” his Outlaw Country street cred passport is stamped, sealed, and delivered.

11.) Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross

Just when we thought that Ashley McBryde was our favorite bad-ass rocker du jour, Jaime Wyatt jumps into the fray with Neon Cross. Such a bad-ass that she was once arrested for robbing her heroin dealer. Produced by Shooter Jennings, it seems that he is everywhere these days, from the vulnerable opener “Sweet Mess” her whiskey worn voice that falls somewhere between worn-hard era Tanya Tucker and early-era Melissa Etheridge signals that everything about this used to be lost soul is entirely authentic. The title song is a bit of a rocker while “Rattlesnake Girl,” a song that addresses her sexuality, is Country Rock with an emphasis on the country. Having produced 2019’s fine Tanya Tucker record, While I’m Livin’, Shooter Jennings along with Jamie Wyatt has come up with another stellar performance to add to their respective resumes.

12.) Jonathan Wilson – Dixie Blur

The hills of Laurel Canyon are well represented on Dixie Blur, the latest record from Pop artist Jonathan Wilson. From the wistful throwback vibe of “’69 Corvette” to the rollicking Bob Wills inspired “In Heaven Making Love” there is a new gem to be discovered around every turn.

13.) The Orielles – Disco Volador

Having released in 2018 the best album of the ’90s twenty years too late with their debut album Silver Dollar Moment, now, with their latest record, the band has quite simply outdone themselves. Bright and bouncy in all the right places there are influences of ’60s as well as ’80s girl group, Bossa Nova Jazz, Funk, and Disco all rolled into a melting pot of what is sure to be one of our best albums of the year.

14.) Hamilton Leithauser – The Loves of Your Life

After his band The Walkmen disbanded in 2013 it seems to have taken a while for front-man Hamilton Leithauser to find his footing, but with The Loves of Your Life, his latest solo effort, he seems to be well on his way to next-level stardom. Inspired by random moments and characters crossing his path, case in point, “The Old King” written as sort of a Pogues style shuffle about a friend he happened to run into that he had not seen in over 10 years. Each little vignette presented here celebrates extraordinary people leading ordinary lives. This is one of the best records to be released this year.

15.) Rookie – Rookie

From the first couple of guitar chords that jump from the speakers on “Hold On Tight” the lead-off track from the band Rookie’s self-titled debut record, you can tell that you are in for a Rock and Roll swagger sort of listen. Part Slade infested Glam, Part Greg Kihn Band with a side order of The Replacements thrown into the milkshake, this Bloodshot Records release is spectacularly delicious.

16.) Early James – Singing For My Supper

It almost seems that we are contractually required to like any record that comes from Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound record company, but we have no problem with that. From Yola, Dee Smith, on to Kendell Marvel and beyond everything that they touch seems to turn into ear-pleasing gold. And the new one from Early James, Singing For My Supper, is certainly no exception. From the opener, “Blue Pill Blues” we are treated to a semi-lengthy instrumental solo before the song turns into some sort of 70’s inspired warp zone that floats somewhere between Jefferson Airplane and Jethro Tull. As it turns out, the opener simply opens the door to the time travel portal that is fully realized with “Gone as the Ghost” and beyond.

17.) David Myles – Leave Tonight

There is a bit of a timeless quality in the ten song-set that David Myles delivers on Leave Tonight. With a slight nod of the fedora to the ’50s crooners of days gone by along with a West Coast Jazz and Laurel Canyon vibe, the resulting collection paints a picture that a collaboration between Joao Gilberto might have generated.

18.) 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.

19.) 2nd Grade – Hit To Hit

Formed by a collective of like-minded musicians gathered up from the ashes of various Philadelphia area Pop-Punk band, 2nd Grade with their debut record Hit To Hit, deliver an infectious set of Indie inspired Power Pop gems. 24 tightly knit songs in just under 42 minutes, the ride takes you on a gentle roller coaster of jubilance on “Sunkist,” Beach Boys-inspired harmonies on “Not in the Band,” and Replacements worthy energy on the short but extremely sweet “Boys In Heat.” With musical touchpoints, the likes of The Rubinoos, The Replacements, The Greg Khin Band, and Teenage Fan Club your summer Jam just might be here a little bit early.

20.) Wyldlife – Year of the Snake

It has been back in the days of yore, the days of  The Biters and The Struts, since a real live Rock and Roll band has garnered as much praise within the hallowed halls of Rock is the New Roll HQ as we have heard in recent days with the release of Year of the Snake, the new record from Wyldlife. All killer, no filler, as they say with that intoxicating flair of blending ’80s Brit-rock, ’70’s Glam, and CBGB’s Ramones era Post-Punk, all in one blender. Anthems galore on this one including “Sacre Bleu,” “Automatic,” and naturally, our favorite, the album closer, “The Falcon.”

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (May 15, 2020)

Another week where we lament what could have been including some stellar records that were supposed to be released today including the new Chuck Prophet, Weezer, and the great Bon Jovi New album, all widely anticipated records that did not see the light of day today. Here are five nice records that are rocking our hedgerow this week.

Ruthie Foster – Live at the Paramount

Texas Blues legend Ruthie Foster is out front and center with a very strong set from her performance at The Paramount in Austin. Sprinkled in with her stellar original material are several really choice cover versions of “The Ghetto,” “Ring of Fire,” and “Mack The Knife.” Several listens in, the overall sentiment in the halls of Rock is the New Roll is that Ruthie Foster should really be much more famous than she is.

Jason Isbell – Reunions

As expected, the new Jason Isbell record is spectacular. His band, The Four Hundred Unit is one of the cracker-jack units in the business, and this one might surpass Southeastern as the best album in the Jason Isbell canon given enough listening time. Extra credit to Jason for releasing the album exclusively to independent record stores one week in advance of delivering the finished product to the unwashed masses.

Gretchen Peters – The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury

Mickey Newbury is one of those songwriters that wrote a lot of songs that you really love that you will be surprised to hear that Mickey wrote them. Here, Gretchen Peters approaches each song with reverence and love in an understated manner that is perfect for a late-night listen. “Just Dropped in (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” is broken down to the core of its elements, “San Francisco Mabel Joy” is sung with such precision that in your minds-ear you might as well be watching a movie and “She Even Woke Me To Say Goodbye” is even more of a tear-jerker with the delicate interpretation that Gretchen gives it.

The Lickerish Quartet – Threesome, Vol 1.

Anytime that two members of the iconic Bay Area band Jellyfish come together to form a band, color us all in. Here, with Eric Dover and Joseph Manning Jr. coming together with the rest of The Lickerish Quartet it is an event celebrating in Psychedelic Rock heaven even if it’s only an E.P.

Willie Nile – New York at Night

It’s official, with the release of his latest, New York at Night, Willie Nile has taken the mantle from Lou Reed as the King of New York. Having been doing his thing from the late ’70’s Nile comes across his love for the city naturally. Here, with “New York Is Rocking,” “The Backstreet Slide,” and “New York at Night” the new Pope of Greenwich Village is more than alive and well.