Amelia White (from the album Rhythm of the Rain available on White Wolf Records)
Amelia White is one reason to set your sights Northeast of Music Row if you’re digging for the good stuff in Nashville, Tennessee. Cross over the Cumberland River for music more raw and rootsy than what is churned out from the big factory industry of Pop Country. Amelia White’s latest offering,Rhythm of the Rain, contains an even-dozen
Songs, personal tales and honest, picturesque musings via electric Folk music.
“Little Cloud Over Little Rock” is a barroom tale, a scene from any dive on the edge of Anytown, U.S.A., a place where you find yourself sitting next to the same George-Jones-loving old man being served by the same punk bartending gal trying to make ends meet. ‘Somebody told me you’re pretty cool for someone your age’ is a dose of unsolicited encouragement in “Free Advice” and a knock on the people that feel like they have got it all figured out for you and feel forced to offer a suggestion.
Loaded and layered with numerous voices, “How It Feels” has gospel hints as well as youthful admissions nodding to where birthplace and what Springsteen record you dug. Ultimately, Amelia White takes on political division while reminding us that “we’re all the same.” Rhythm of the Rain addresses unapproved love in “Sugar Baby” and hits on some subtle human admissions in “Let The Wind Blow.” Melodically, Amelia White is delivering a laid-back record, dapped with subtle hints of Blues, Country and even Laurel Canyon-era Country Rock can be found all over the album. But whether singing a straight-ahead narrative or ambiguously taking on politics or personal admissions, the centerpiece on Rhythm of the Rainare the lyrics of Amelia White. (by Bryant Liggett)
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The Steel Woods (from the album Old News available on Woods Music/Thirty Tigers)
Self-awareness is the headline when The Steel Woods open their recent release, Old News, with first cut “All of These Years”. The band pull themselves up another rung on the ladder of life realizing ‘nothing makes you old like holding on to youth’, summing up experience as ‘a lot of blood, a lot of sweat, and a little bit of the Blues’. Guitarists Jason Rowdy Cope and Wes Bayliss met in Nashville, Tennessee, forming a songwriting team and a band with the addition of Johnny Stanton (bass) and Jay Tooke (drums). The heft in the playing of The Steel Woods is matched lyrically on Old News, the story of the title track suggesting that the answer to cultural upheaval may be answered by acting on our own thoughts rather than re-acting to the words of others. Guitar notes play tag over a solid backbeat as a deal goes bad for the gamblers in “Compared to a Soul” while mountain music pulls the strings for “Anna Lee”, sharp-angled riffs punch at “Blind Lover”, and the beat stomps a story in the stones found in the chiseler’s tale in “Rock That Says My Name”.
Old News blends the sweet sound of the south with electric guitars to deliver The Steel Woods brand of Southern Rock. Once the group caught a break in touring, The Steel Woods set up in Asheville, North Carolina’s Echo Mountain Studio, recording Old Newsin six-days carved out between shows. The recording process became a full band endeavor for Old News, Wes Bayliss explaining that The Steel Woods ‘really hone in on what we do, our strengths as a band, establishing a musical identity. The first album, we were still figuring out our sound, so what came out, came out. This time, we had a premeditated blueprint, a real plan’. Tender hopes pen a love note to the future over the cascading sonic flourishes that decorate “Wherever You Are” as Old Newsstrums past memories in “One of These Days”. The Steel Woods trudge through lost love on the slowly chugging rhythms of “Changes” and poke at “The Catfish Song” with pointed guitar notes. The awareness of the opening cut comes back as The Steel Woods ponder the losses in life, holding a mirror to backdated calendar pages wondering “Are the Good Times Really Over (I Wish a Buck Was Still Silver)”. Old Newsshows love for the Southland home of The Steel Woods as the band sing of its Rock traditions with a cover of The Allman Brothers “Whipping Post” and its sensibilities in a version of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “Southern Accents”.
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Liz Brasher (from the album Painted Images available on Fat Possum Records)
The glow reflected from Painted Image, the recent debut release from Liz Brasher, shines with the purity of Soul music. Painted Imageliberally draws from all the available paths taken for the style, infusing the songs while standing on a common ground created by the blending of Soul along with Rock’n’Roll. Liz Brasher’s voice rises as her love sinks deep into hurt on “Cold Soul” while the sound of strings bandages the memories with tightly woven notes. The heartbeat thump of a solid rhythm section inspires resolve in “Hand to the Plow” while the power of Liz’s vocal becomes the centerpoint when “Air” surrounds her words with hushed notes and chords. The sound of Painted Imageholds allegiance for two geographical influences. Liz Brasher spent her formative years in rural North Carolina prior to adopting Memphis, Tennessee as her musical home base.
Strutting into Painted Imageon a thick groove, Liz Brasher addresses her religious upbringing, moving into secular music as she embraces her southern heritage in “Blood of the Lamb”. Painted Imageproudly owns its Rock’n’Soul, never playing favorites with either genre as the melodies frolic on nighttime surf sounds with “Moon Baby” as Liz Brasher samples from a Soul buffet with a syrupy bass line and crisp drumming as “Love Feasts” fills its sonic plate with heavy beats of rhythmic slicing and dicing. Liz Brasher presents Soul music in real time, delivering her songs with a full band backing, foregoing the sounds of studio Soul to give Painted Imagea live performance feel and form. The percussion is infectious on “Every Day”, the triphammer beat becoming a trance as Liz Brasher points a finger with her pen, supported by wiggling guitar lines and a wandering trumpet tone echoing through the tune. Painted Imagegently begins the title track on lightly touched guitar strings while Liz Brasher shines with commitment to the future in “Body of Mine” using the guitar lead sharp notes to poke holes in past pain.
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Sharon Van Etten (from the album Remind Me Tomorrow available on Jagjaguwar Records)
Simple notes played on a keyboard and an open-ended confession begin “I Told You Everything,” the first cut on Remind Me Tomorrow, the latest release from Sharon Van Etten. ‘Sitting at the bar, I told you everything. You said ‘holy shit’ you almost died’ is a lyric that leaves a wealth of space to imagine what exactly is the mentioned ‘everything’ aside from what can be gleaned from the unlimited well of personal admissions. Sharon Van Etten’s vocal tone is not quite a whisper but soft enough to be the perfect accompaniment for the bass and keyboards that give the album a front to back atmospheric vibe. Remind Me Tomorrow is a quiet album, both sad and reflective, with Sharon Van Etten possibly retelling her past, or various scenes from her life played out in each song. “Memorial Day” plays off like a theatrical score with a dark pulse that slowly meanders underneath the surface, catching you in a conversation you joined well after it began but you can’t resist seeing how it plays out.
“Seventeen” and “Malibu” fit perfectly together, “Seventeen” melodically upbeat compared to the rest of the album as the narrator reflects on that great age and whatever anyone did at that age, “Malibu” adding more reflections on young relationships, letting driving around aimlessly be the perfect activities on the edge of 17 years old. This is an efficient album, with little time and even less space wasted, as each song find Sharon Van Etten getting right to the point. Her vocals while hushed are deliberate and very matter-of-fact. While the melodic mood ofRemind Me Tomorrowremains the same through each track Sharon has created a simple formula, capitalizing on what the album lacks sonically. Leaving out added instrumentation, something as simple as an acoustic guitar, is the ace dealt by Remind Me Tomorrow, otherwise it would be just another overly emotional Folk album. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Hunt Sales Memorial (from the album Get Your Shit Together available on Big Legal Mess Records)
He is a drummer with longevity in a business of interchangeable parts. He is a musician with rock’n’roll cred. Hunt Sales has clocked in stage and studio time with Todd Rundgren and Iggy Pop among others as well as being a member in David Bowie’s Tin Machine as he has sauntered along the path of his sporadic career since 1970. The son of famed comedian Soupy Sales, Get Your Shit Together, the recent Hunt Sales Memorial release, is raw garage punk with a bluesy bounce, loaded with lyrical irreverence in a package of unpolished grit. “Here I Go Again” opens Get Your Shit Together as an out of the gate charger with an opening claim that could be read as Hunt Sales being back and hitting it hard after a break. “Angel of Darkness” has a ska bounce, guitar fills and plenty of word play in a narrative of regret and acceptance, with Hunt Sales letting someone know ‘I hate you just as much as I love you’.
“Sorry Baby” is an irreverent drug intervention song with punchy horns, delivered in the story as part apology for ‘putting a needle in your neck’, and part anticipation as a familiar ‘ ‘64 Caprice’ pulls up to the corner. “Shimekra’s Got the Hook” is a Chuck Berry mover, leading right into the aggressive “Bitch Done Left.” Hunt Sales Memorial lets it all out on “It Ain’t Easy,” which comes across as an angry street confession in two minutes and fifteen seconds of room-filling power chords and sparse lyrics.
Get Your Shit Togetheris rough rock and roll, wearing its heart on its sleeve and spilling its guts all over the floor. The closer in “Cleveland Street Memphis” is packed with saxophone squonk, Hunt Sales Memorial offering a finishing touch with a fitting instrumental to a delightfully dirty album.
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The Kentucky Headhunters (from the album Live at the Ramblin’ Man Fair available on Alligator Records)
The introduction for the live show captured on The Kentucky Headhunters recent release Live at the Ramblin’ Man Fairwelcomes the band to the UK for their first trip. The announcer for Ramblin’ Man Fair, a yearly summer event in the English countryside at Mote Park in Maidstone, Kent,takes time to verify the band ‘knows how to rock’n’roll. True southern gentlemen, The Kentucky Headhunters make sure they do not offend their first-time hosts and unload an electrical storm on the stage for Live at the Ramblin’ Man Fair.
Offering a track from their Pickin on Nashvillealbum, The Kentucky Headhunters roll across “Daddy was a Milk Man”, vow to the crowd to ‘get a little greasy’ with “Shuffle Back to Memphis”, dive into some southern music, amping up the Blues for “Walking with the Wolf” and let the sound simmer as the rhythm cools and the guitars play tag for “Have You Ever Loved a Woman”. Live at the Ramblin’ Man Fairshoves the show into high gear with album opener “Big Boss Man”, dips the Rhythm into the Blues for “Rock Me Baby”, rocks Country with Soul for “Hi-Hell Sneakers”, and tributes UK hometowners The Beatles with a Bluesy take on “Don’t Let Me Down”.
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The Hellroys (from the album Hellroys is Real available on No Soul Sounds)
Life got you down? The weight of the world becoming a soul crushing grind? Pull up a stool and enjoy the band on stage as The Hellroys bring wrong-turn romeos, good old boys making bad decisions, and a cast of fringe-dewellers kicking at the rug on their recent release, Hellroys is Real. The Hellroys raise spirits as they seek a salvation of earthly delights (“Snake Handling Man”), gun the engine on four-wheel mistakes (“My Truck is Loud”), cruise with a little white line blue humor (“You Gave Me a Semi”), and offer parental advice (“My Kids Are Getting to Big (for me to hit)”.
Hellroys is Realplugs in a rock’n’roll country guitar riff for the instant karma promises of “Don’t Think I Won’t” and strums up a front porch Folk that hits the honky tonky dance floor with the confessions of “Drink Drunk Enough”. The Hellroys sing of true tongue-in-cheeks moments as they welcome space travelers in “Anal Alien” while the boys in the band list their daily prescription medication regimen, proudly walking a straight line, using the rattle of pills for an inner-rhythm swearing “I Don’t Do No Drugs” as Hellroys is Realborrows a tune from Steve Earle for The Hellroys version of “Devil’s Right Hand”.
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Gaye Adegbalola (from the album The Griot available on Hot Toddy Music/Vizztone Records)
A griot is a traveling poet, musician, and storyteller who carries the tradition of oral history to parts of West Africa. That is the role that Gaye Adegbalola accepts as The Grioton her recent album release. The Griotbegins its message on the first cut as “Nothing’s Changed” points out the current trauma and turbulence of humans seeking a better life is a tradition rather than a modern-day anomaly. Gaye Adegbalola airs “Dirty Sheets” on a thick Blues rhythm, faces haters with a shuffling boogie in “Don’t Criticize Me”, scratches her head with the wonders of the world for “Ain’t Technology Grand”, and points fingers at wagging tongues in “Lierrhea”.
Beginning her teaching career in the early 1970’s, Gaye Adegbalola was an educator for eighteen years, moonlighting during her teaching years as a musician, and founding member of Saffire – Uppity Blues Women, performing and traveling with the group for twenty-five years until they disbanded in 2009. Clutching a solo career with a cause Gaye Adgebolola stands proud for taking a knee in “Kaepernicked”, takes a shot at environmental disasters with “(You’re) Flint Water”, and refuses to yield in the fight of “FGM (Female Genital Mutilation)”. Gaye Adegbalola utilizes the oral history tradition, speaking of the past through her own present in the title track while The Griothonors musical traditions with a cover of Bessie Smith’s “Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl”.
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Good Paper of Rev Rob Mortimer (from the album Lock It Down Tight available on RBM Music)
Passing preaching by at a gallop, the Good Paper of Rev Rob Mortimer reads good deeds as a challenge, taking on all comers with the smooth spy Soul of “Who’s Gonna Take This Bad Ass Down”. Soul saving is in the grooves of “Lock It Down Tight” as the title track prances out horn blasts over a solid Soul backbeat while Good Paper of Rev Rob Mortimer faces trouble heading to “High Ground” on Southern Soul sunshine and relates a history of the Southland on a runaway Rock’n’Soul psychedelic romp in “Delta Side of Vicksburg”. Raised in the Mississippi Delta, Rob Mortimer puts a southern touch onto Lock It Down Tonight, rushing the rhythms for the caffeinated pulse of “Such a Scream” and chasing a ragtime piano for the wishes of “I Hope”. Good Paper of Rev Rob Mortimer dials in rock’n’roll love on the late-night airwaves with “You’re My Radio” while Lock It Down Tightuses a funky bounce as “When I’m Gone” bids goodbye on a mighty groove.
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Chris O’Leary (from the album 7 Minutes Late available on American Showplace Music)
Love gone wrong is the topic as Chris O’Leary pulls the title track into the station on 7 Minutes Late, his recent release. Chris O’Leary puts flesh on the emotions as relates the murderous tale of “7 Minutes Late” with a tense edge, syphoning lifeblood from the lyrics with the magnetic draw of the words and hellhound blasts from his harmonica. The track sets the standard for its sibling songs on the recording, raising a bar for Rhythm and Blues in general. Chris O’Leary leads a second line strut through “Circus Just Left Town” while a Southern Soul breeze blows in the soft horns and warm harmonies of “Unbelievable” while 7 Minutes Late spits out a beat to plead for another break in “One More Chance at Love” and rips up the rug for a honky tonk stomp on love with “Heartbreak Waiting to Happen”.
Taking the lead has been a long-time day gig for Chris O’Leary as his voice fronted Levon Helm’s Barnburners for six year, the singer offering vocal duties to Bobby Keys, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Albert Lee, Dave Edmunds, James Cotton, and many others. Putting the music under his own name, Chris O’Leary released his solo debut in 2011 (Mr. Used to Be), returning with 7 Minutes Late to offer another blast of Blues over smooth grooves (“Bones”), acoustic Soul (“Daddy’s Here”), and Dixieland struts (“Driving Me Crazy”). 7 Minutes Late crawls into “Your Day Will Come” on a slow moving groove spreading fat guitar rifs and crisp piano notes under the warning in the story as Chris O’Leary finds a seat in some Country Blues for the hard truths of “She Ain’t Comin’ Back” and makes a full confession on the full-frontal uptown Saturday night blast of “What the Devil Made Me Do”.
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