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.

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.

 

 

 

What We’re Listening To (May 10, 2020)

Datura4

In the blink of an ear, these guys from Western Australia have transformed themselves from an on-fire Blues-Boogie band to one of the best Psychedelic Rock bands on the planet.

Their earlier albums including Blessed is the Boogie were pretty much straight-ahead Blues Rock affairs with occasional mid-song jams to display their immense musical chops. Now, with their latest release, West Coast Highway Cosmic, the band has turned the Psychedelic Rock up to 11, so much so that they would make the 13th-floor elevators blush. The album steps on the gas and stretches out the jams on the “Highway Star ” influenced title track, turns up the Steppenwolf vibes on “Wolfman Woogie,” and meanders its way through the desert-noir of “You’re The Only One”

Grace Potter Monday Night Twilight Hour

Grace Potter is using her quarantine time wisely by putting together a weekly YouTube video series to share music with her fans. Typically, it is just her and her piano, but here, she enlists help from her band on an excellent version of the Zeppelin classic “Whole Lotta Love.”

Margo Price – Twinkle Twinkle

By all rights, we should be listening to, That’s How Rumors Get Started, the new record from Margo Price that was supposed to come out this past Friday. But, it is Corona delayed, so we get the next best thing, a song, and accompanying video to wet the whistle until we are able to hear the entire thing in all its glory.

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Outlaw Blood

The mighty Texas Troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard has a new album in the can and it is almost ready to hit the streets. The record features a dazzling array of guests including, Ringo Starr, Don Was, Chris Robinson, The Cadillac Three, Joe Walsh, Pam Tillis, Paula Nelson, Elizabeth Cook, Tyler Bryant, Ashley McBryde, Larkin Poe, Peter Rowan, and Ronnie Dunn. Just to name them all.

Paul Weller – Nick Lowe

Both of these blokes have a record coming out later in the year and to say we are looking forward to it is a bit like saying we are looking forward to happy hour.

Nick Lowe does a particularly excellent imitation of the cool uncle and elder statesman as he as grown into over the last several albums with “Lay It On Me Baby.”

Albert King – Funky London

A little blues 12-bar workout from Albert Kings’ Funky London. The title track and the instrumental cover of JB’s “Cold Sweat” are worth the price of admission alone on this one.

Elton John – Tonight (Live From Moscow ’79)

For our ears, the Elton John w/Ray Cooper 1979 live album has passed over 17-11-70, or 11-17-70 if your on this side of the pond, as the best live record in the Elton John canon. Side one is just Elton and his piano where he tickles the ivories like his life depended on it, especially so on his scorching rendition of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” And, things get even cooler when percussionist Ray Copper joins Elton on stage kicking things off with “Funeral For A Friend” followed by the best version you will ever hear of “Tonight.”

Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Albums Released This Week

Another week for the Icons. Paul Weller, Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson, and Richard Thompson all have records coming out this week.

Willie Nelson – My Way

Willie can roll out of bed and handle anybody’s songbook. This time it is Frank Sinatra’s.

Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers

This one really highlights a masterful guitar player at the peak of his powers.

Tony Bennett and Diana Krall – Love Is Here To Stay

First k.d. Lang, then Lady Gaga, now Diana Krall. Tony Bennett certainly has a way with the ladies.

Paul Weller – The Meanings

Sir Paul Weller is aging quite well. This one takes on a bit of a Jazzy tone, but is still a must listen for all Weller Fans.

Alejandro Escovedo – The Crossing

On this, his first album since relocating from Austin to Dallas, Escovedo delivers a song cycle that tries to answer the question what would have happened if he had tried to migrate to the U.S. in these times instead of 60 years ago as his father did.