Wayne Hancock (from the album Ride) - Wayne Hancock saddles up Ride with honky tonk gear. The classic form of traditional country tunes glides through the album on the wheels of the title track, with Wayne singing his sweet blues over the chorus as he pushes the needle with the words “ride, ride, ride”. Ride is album number eight for Wayne Hancock, his fifth release for Bloodshot Records. The album sticks to the sound that Wayne eats, sleeps and wears when he gets up each morning. As Wayne has said, his goals are simple and direct, “All I want to do is play the Joints until the day I die”. Ride is a road house record. It rattles with the bass thump of roots rockabilly (“Deal Gone Down”), slides and pops with steel guitar and horn notes playing tag over acoustic guitar rhythms (“Fair Weather Blues”) and moves around the dance floor for some juke joint swing (“Best to Be Alone”).

Wayne Hancock gets his coffee on hepcat style with “Cappuccino Boogie” and yodels for joy over a train track rhythm as he relates the happiness of having no particular place to go in “Home with My Baby”.  Ride is honky tonk through and through. By showing loyalty to the genre, Wayne Hancock offers the calling card of a modern day traditionalist. Produced by the capable hands of longtime collaborator Lloyd Maines (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Joe Ely, and Dixie Chicks), the two stand by the sound with pride. Ride lets the world know that a night at the local road house will give you an earful of tunes that are blue collar rather than straight up blues. The way the message hits your ears and has your back, the way it helps you feel better knowing that the hard luck tales in the tunes are not only happening in your life and the manner in which the grit sticks to you all match the more traditional take on the Blues.

Wayne Hancock keeps a family tradition alive in his music. Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock was born in 1965 and began writing songs by age twelve. He took lessons learned from entertaining with family at home to playing in juke joints by the time he was a teen. Ride is Wayne Hancock hitting stride with his songs and his delivery. Like walking through the doors at a favorite watering hole, Ride is a cathartic experience. Wayne sees the album as a more direct and personal telling than previous work, “This album is an organic reaction to life’s challenges – these are not sad songs.”                                                              DANNY McCLOSKEY/RA

Listen and buy the music of Wayne Hancock from AMAZON or iTunes 

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

Lightning Rod Records celebrates thirty years of life after Born in the U.S.A with the recent release, Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. The Bruce Springsteen album was a turning point for musician on its came into the world on June 4, 1984 release date, leaning Springsteen and the E Street Band towards a Pop sound, foregoing the grim outlooks on his previous release, Nebraska. Born in the U.S.A was far from seeing contentment in its stories yet there was a promise of hope amid the destruction. The album became the biggest seller for 1985 and produced seven Top 10 singles, tying for the record with Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. Born in the U.S.A. became Springsteen’s most successful album release, selling 15 million copies in the U.S on its release and 30 million records worldwide. The album was viewed as a back-pat by politicians that looked to use its success for their own, they only saw the flag on the cover, not the guy possible taking a leak with his back turned, nor did they hear the pissed-off guy in the lyrics taking aim for taking back our country.

Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. re-visits the album with contemporary artists, many of whom grew up and were educated by the original release. Jason Isbell slows “Born in the U.S.A.” to make the song a challenge to its main character. Amanda Shires is a key to the track. Her fiddle swoops and soars, and is particularly effectiveness when she plucks the notes in the verses to underscore husband Jason Isbell’s reading of the state of the nation through the eyes of one of its citizens. Jason crawls into the song, his vocals bearing the weight of a situation still, thirty years on, still an active cultural issue. The couple were intrigued by the mood as much as the song, Jason stating that ‘”Born in the U.S.A." is one of my favorites because so many people have seemingly misunderstood the lyrical content and the song's overall tone. When you listen to the demo, the dark, minor key arrangement makes it clear that this is not strictly a song of celebration. We wanted to stay true to that version." Amanda added that "I love that the song paints a picture of struggle in the face of the American dream, and the irony in the chorus is delivered with such force that it nearly transcends irony altogether.’

The darkness of the mood that surrounds the stories on Born in the U.S.A. becomes a lot clearer on the 30-year on tribute. Sonically, Dead Man’s Town bears a closer allegiance to Nebraska, defining the album tone with a wider range of soundscapes to create the same subtle echoes and textures. Justin Townes Earle bares the soul of “Glory Days” by creating the track with man and guitar, the only souvenirs left of the times in which the song lives.  Ryan Culwell turns dusty pages of timeworn audio photos for “Bobby Jean”, Joe Pug follows the click beat of a snare drum to drive the rhythm on “Downbound Train” and Holly Williams gives “No Surrender” a free wind of freedom blowing through the tune’s exit plan.

A folk ramble to sound tracks “Goin’ Down” (Trampled by Turtles) and “Working on the Highway” (Blitzen Trapper) while electric chords snarls frame “I’m on Fire” (Low) and flow like mist through “Cover Me” (The Apache Relay).  Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. owes a debt to the production masterfully maintaining a mood that threads the songs together.  Co-executive produced by Logan Rogers and Evan Schlansky, with production contributions from Dave Cobb (whose production credits include for Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell), it is the way the songs interact with Roots music sound bed that links the release to the original Born in the U.S.A. tracks presented with a more Pop sound for the seaside bar band rock of the E Street Band. 

“Darlington County” sticks to a rock’n’roll swagger from Quaker City Nighthawks and North Mississippi All Stars provide a delta backbeat, southern harmonies and honey-sweet horns to welcome back “My Hometown”. On an album of top shelf performances, Nicole Atkins rendition of “Dancing in the Dark” deserves special attention. She delivers her vocals in a dark room, making sure that every light in the house is off before her vocals begin. Nicole makes it a personal message, the thoughts in her head lining up on the tracks snaking, jittery rhythms. Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A reminds us of the worth of Bruce Springsteen’s original release and points to future glory for the Roots music as it remakes the album with a sepia-tones majesty that adds another facet to its diamond status.

Listen and buy music on Dead Man’s Town from AMAZON

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

Otis Redding (from the album Lonely and Blue, The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding) - Concord Music Group has inserted a ‘what if’ moment in the recorded history of Otis Redding. The label has collected one of Mr. Redding’s best attributes; his ability to dig into heartfelt ballads. Otis had a way of sinking to the very bottom of the pain; breaking on through and going deeper with more promises, confessions and hope lost. Lonely and Blue; The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding has been released on the Stax Records label on CD and blue vinyl. The collection is packaged with a look that fits it into the 1960’s recording period of Otis Redding.

The compilation producer, David Gorman, felt that “given how nobody had delivered a gut-wrenching sad song like Otis, I always felt he should have made an album you could put on late at night and settle into a glass of something strong. The mood and subject of every song is the same…Otis, heartbroken and begging for your love. I tried to find the saddest most potently heartbreaking songs he ever sang, with no regard for chart position or notoriety. There are a few hits on the album, but they’re there because they fit the mood, not because we wanted to include hits. Lonely and Blue; The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding includes jukebox and car radio memories such as “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “These Arms of Mine” and a lyrically darker version of “I’ve Got My Dreams to Remember” alongside lesser known heart tugs such as “Waste of Time” and “Everybody Makes A Mistake”.

Listen and buy Lonely and Blue; The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding from AMAZON or iTunes

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

The Rave-Ups’ (from the album Town + Country on Omnivore Recordings) - There was a rock and roll stance in the way The Rave-Ups leaned more towards Country in their Rock, and certainly an outlaw sensibility in the way the band recorded. The members of The Rave-Ups’ worked in the A&M Records mail room as a day gig, using the studios at night and during lunch breaks to record. The band welcomed the help of producer Stephen Barncard (Grateful Dead’s American Beauty), and pedal steel player Sneaky Pete Kleinow in the recording of Town + Country in 1985. Omnivore Recordings packs the ten original releases with eleven additional tracks of unreleased, live, and 1986 studio cuts. During the album’s original release, the LA-based The Rave-Ups’ were primed for infamy as part of the John Hughes’ film Pretty in Pink. The track was in consideration with “Positively Lost Me” and when it was not used, Town + Country fell out of print, though not Roots music legend. 

On the recording, Town + Country has the rock’n’roll band studio perfection that ruled 1980’s productions. The Rave-Ups’ tear down California residential streets cruising “In My Gremlin”, point fingers over an Everly Brothers-branded Rock’n’Roll with “Class Tramp”, dial in a sad Country song for “Radio”, and shake out a Burrito Brothers Country Rock wisdom in “Not Where You're At (But Where You Will Be)”.  Guitar distortion rises up in dusty clouds of chords on the included demo of “If I Had a Hammer” as The Rave-ups electrify Country in a live version of “Nine Pound Hammer”. Rapid fire preaching holds on tight to runaway rhythms in “Remember (Newman's Lovesong)” as The Rave-Ups wrestle a T-Rex boogie into “Rave-up, Shut-Up”, caffeinate a honky tonk swirl with “By the Way”, and put a city-street edge to The Byrds’ “You Ain't Goin' Nowhere”.

Listen and buy the music of The Rave-Ups’ from AMAZON or iTunes

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

The J. Geils Band -(from the album The J. Geils Band) -  The Boston music scene never, ever got the kudos it should have received for being inclusive with its music though the community has become a home in niche markets of Blues, Metal, and Indie Rock and Ska. The Boston fanbase has a rule…..you are wicked good, or you suck: no in-betweens. When J. Geils formed his namesake, he was part of a trio that would host J. Geils Band bassman D.K. (Danny Klein) and Magic Dick (Richard Salwitz). The Blues was their muse, and the trio kept the format in their songs when they became electric in 1967, adding drummer Stephen Jo Bladd. The group took on a frontman for his microphone chops, though it was radio waves and a DJ’s knowledge of music that got Peter Wolf the attention of the existing J.Geils Blues Band line-up. The group dropped Blues from its moniker and added the final member for the line-up with a former fan, Seth Justman on keyboards. The J. Geils Band signed to Atlantic Records and released a self-titled album that brought Soul and Blues into Rock arena shows, showing a young rock’n’roll audience that the real party was in the soul The J Geils Band rocked.

The album, The J. Geils Band, was released in 1970. It hosted five tracks written by the group, which was unusual for the mix of Blues, Rock and Soul bands that included the Geils Band. To draw the line from where they were standing musically, they admitted they had as much trouble at Otis Rush did in his 1962 hit, “Homework”. The J. Geils Band ask “What’s Your Hurry”, sink into pain “On Borrowed Time”, and pound the beat into your brain with “Hard Drivin’ Man”. The tracks all fit in with the album mood of rock’n’roll boys with a major woody for rhythm and blues. The original songs are from the pens of group members Peter Wolfe, J. Geils, and Seth Justman.

The J. Geils Band stomp into their debut with opening cut “Wait”, an in-house tune by Seth and Peter while J. Geils pens the following cut “Ice Breaker (for Big M)” I don’t know how J. saw the song. As a opener for the classic Soul show band instrumental live show, it fits very well, though it is track number two on The J, Geils Band. Included was their version of The Contours, “First I Look at the Purse” (written by Smokey Robinson), the initial track that gained the group FM radio attention as a live recording from their shows. The J. Geils Band became synonymous with bar and party bands. Sonically, that is exactly where they landed though what the Boston boys did was take it to the top by playing the songs they held close, and letting their Rock muse guide their moves. The studio version of the hit live track showed that the purse strings were linked to J. Geils guitar strings as he licks cleanly up and down throughout the course of the song.

The J. Geils Band had a secret weapon in the future-thinking band mentality that Magic Dick should take the lead with his harmonica, as he does on the Big Walter Price tune “Pack Fair and Square”. The J. Geils Band were Boston-based though their popularity grew internationally. Detroit, Michigan took the band as their own, and their popularity in a northern town primed for electric Blues can be traced back to songs they performed by Albert Collins’ “Sno-Cone” as they shiver and shake on the tune a  close-out instrumental. John Lee Hooker’s “Serves You Right to Suffer” makes a slow crawl across the album, and if you are looking for a way to fall in love with the Geils Band it just might be in confessing they are ‘back on Broadway' and “Cruisin’ for Love” again’ in their version of the Juke Joint Jimmy track.

Listen and buy the music of The J. Geils Band from AMAZON or iTunes

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.