The Wood Brothers (from the album Kingdom in My Mind available on Honey Jar Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Kingdom in My Mind is baffling online streaming services. The latest release from The Wood Brothers comes up as an “unknown genre” on various internet musical playback programs, which is an apt descriptor for both the band and the latest musical journey that explores Jazz, Blues, Rock, Gospel, and Country styles, doing so by delivering the aforementioned genres in their traditional sense.
“Alabaster” opens Kingdom in My Mind like a beat poem, the lyrics spoken-word more than sung, and laid out over a bed of a loose-limbed, groove-filled Jazz. “Little Bit Sweet” is a bouncy love tune, and a raw Blues guitar is picked for Gospel hints in “Jitterbug Love” while “Cry Over Nothing” continues the Gospel feel as the soulful ballad acknowledges ‘the world is broken’. Raspy guitar is the motif for the punky, Indie Blues of “Don’t Think About My Death” as “Little Blue” jams a groove that sounds like a Blues stomp pulled from the Mississippi Hill Country. Perhaps the standout cut on the record is “A Dreams A Dream”. The track starts as a boogie Jazz melody before sharply turning into a lazy and beautifully sloppy Blues number so fragile that it could fall apart at any second underneath the triple threat of trippy, psychedelic, and funky. Sounding like The Wood Brothers recorded with no plan beyond improvisation, making it up as they proceeded was the plan, Kingdom in My Mind is loose and staged in spontaneity. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Last Train Home from the album Daytime Highs and Overnight Lows available on Red Beet Records (by Bryant Liggett)
The latest from Last Train Home finds the Washington, DC-based band stretching their wings beyond what may be consider Roots music. Americana still lies in Last Train Home’s Roots heart, with Daytime Highs and Overnight Lows exploring Pop and modern R&B while also sticking to their original intentions with tossing in more than one glorious train song. Band leader Eric Brace holds on to a good tune when he hears one, and Last Train Home are not afraid to dip into a cover tune, as with album opener “Sleepy Eyes,” pulled from the under-the-radar Pennsylvania Alt Country band Frog Holler.
“Distance and Time” is the marriage of a Gospel ballad with a yearning love song, topped with beautiful use of accordion while “Happy Is”, despite its lyrical content saying ‘goodbyes from a distance’ and the narrator carrying a ‘suitcase full of my regrets’, the track is a skip down the sidewalk Pop tune. The horns are heavy on the Barry White cover of “What Am I Gonna Do with You”, a cut that showcases the Last Train Home ability to deliver a soulful, jazzy punch. Three train songs keep LTH in the Roots world. “Old Railroads” kicks off with weepy pedal steel, the horns turning it into a New Orleans inspired ballad. “B&O Man” is a country nod to life on the rails and “Taking Trains” a classic story of blowing your dead-end town on the next engine available. The Daytime Highs and Overnight Lows closer, “Wake Up, We’re in Love”, features gritty guitar and punchy keys, Last Train Home dressing Garage Rock glory in a Pop song costume. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Bart Budwig (from the album Another Burn on the Astroturf available on Fluff and Gravy Records)
Making sense out of our day-to-day life as adults generally gets a knee-jerk reaction is to look at our inner-child. Bart Budwig sneaks a peak into his past with “Human Again”, telling the tale over a rock’n’roll ruckus, recalling that ‘I was taught a lot about relationships at church and in private school, some helpful, some painful, and some quite strange. I'm still trying to make sense of it all’. The track, and like-minded tunes that looks at the life around him can be found on the recent Bart Budwig release, Another Burn on the Astroturf.
The gravelly growl of Bart Budwig creates an urgent croon for the songs of Another Burn on the Astroturf. A warbly voice nostalgically remembers better weather in “The Captain and the Dreamer” as a soulful tone sips “Strong Coffee” on a thick groove as a trumpet floats in “Northern Sky” like a puffy cloud drifting over a piano ramble and meandering guitar strings. Rainbow Girls join Bart Budwig for a discussion on “Socks” that matches losing one of a pair in the dryer to a tale of hearts stuck on a spin cycle. Little things come together to make the day when The Hackles back Bart Budwig on “Four Leaf Clover” as John Craigie comes in to help Bart ponder his purpose in “Rolling Stoned”. A rock’n’roll clatter is the clarion call opening Another Burn on the Astroturf as guitars play tag on first cut “Time for Two” while Bart Budwig lets his voice swing like a pendulum whispering “Oh Mother” and exits the album pocketing “Five Bucks” into a gospel processional march.
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Betty Fox Band (from the album Peace in Pieces available as a self-release)
Finding inspiration in the venerated recording studio, Betty Fox Band entered FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama to gather cuts for her recent release, Peace in Pieces. Backing the sultry Blues stylings of Betty Fox, legendary FAME keyboardist Spooner Oldham is joined by the equally infamous FAME horn section. Guitar and piano harmonize to welcome the horn blasts introducing “Marie” while Southern Soul pours like honey from “Runnin’ Back to You” and a late-night dance floor spins underneath the Amy Winehouse-haunted melodies of “Shattered Dreams and Broken Toes”.
Childhood musical training of Southern Country Gospel and its tight harmonies receive a backbeat on Peace in Pieces, Betty Fox seeing a “Green Light” on the album’s lead cut as her band lay down a mighty groove as a undercurrent. A warning shot is fired over a whispered melody from The Betty Fox Band as the story points fingers, naming lies in the smoldering admonitions of “Let Go or Be Dragged”. Peace in Pieces grabs a Memphis groove for its title track and touches “Rising Strong” with optimism as The Betty Fox Band warm “Winter’s Cold” with Blue Soul and dab the thick beat of “Magnificent Hallucination” with fractured doses of words and music.
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Gill Landry (from the album Skeleton at the Banquet available on Rubber Tramp Records)
Wispy tendrils of sound weave and tumble over Skeletons at the Banquet, the recent release from Gill Landry. Gill’s guitar fills the air with sound, melodies soundshifting through Folk, Blues, and Latin textures as notes shimmer like a thousand flickering stars, the textures ever-evolving around “Portrait of Astrid (A Nocturne). A shadow passes over the Country and Western noir of the album opener as Gill Landry second guesses his words in “I Love You Too” while Skeletons at the Banquet feasts on a troubadour’s tale singing “A Different Tune” and introduces “Angeline” on a Country ramble.
Moods haunts the album as much as the ancient echoes that pop like bubbles throughout “The Refuge of Your Arms” while the rhythms seeming to face off when a wandering gypsy fiddle is soundtrack for the dramatic staging of “Trouble Town”. Gill Landry is the town crier in “Nobody’s Coming”, his news accented by horns and fiddle reels over a constantly flowing percussion as somber notes trudge through Washington Square with the storyline of “The Place They Call Home” while Skeletons at the Banquetuses a Country Rock jangle as a talisman against the false promises from “The Wolf”.
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Marshall Crenshaw (from the album Miracle of Science available on MRI)
Marshall Crenshaw may be the musical equivalent to the bottomless cup of coffee. Good coffee. Some critics may snark at his overall output with less than a dozen full length albums to his credit in a career that dates back to 1982, beginning the release cycle with his stellar self-titled debut. Dig into the material within the Marshall Crenshaw discography and you will struggle to find a bad cut in the entire bunch; the good songs just keep getting poured into your coffee cup. After six album releases, Marshall Crenshaw moved from a major label to the indie Razor and Tie with the release of Miracle of Science, an album seeing a proper reissue. Almost a quarter century old and its as fresh as next week.
“What Do You Dream Of” kicks off Miracle of Science in classic Marshall Crenshaw fashion, the narrator contemplating the mysteries of the gal catching his eye. “Who Stole That Train” and its slide guitar hint at country and “Theme from Flaregun” is a surf-rock instrumental with game-show theme music undertones. Marshall Crenshaw takes a why-the-hell-not-because-I-can liberties by preceding the catchy work lament “Seven Miles An Hour” with a reverse spelling ‘rour na selim neves’ as a hidden messages in the song while listeners may wonder why “What The Hell I Got” wasn’t on this record the first time around, its string section fills and power-pop glory make the cut an anchor to the reissue. Listeners can also dig into what Crenshaw digs, obscure covers including Husker Du’s Grant Hart’s “Twenty-Five Forty-One,” “A Wondrous Place” which was a hit for Billy Fury, and a hand clap, horn section laden version of Dobie Gray’s “The In Crowd.”
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David Dondero (from the album The Filter Bubble Blues available on Fluff and Gravy Records)
What is a filter bubble? The Oxford Dictionary has the definition as a situation in which an Internet user encounters only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize an individual’s online experience. Sound familiar? David Dondero opens his recent release, The Filter Bubble Blues (his 10th album), from the comfort of an “Easy Chair”, the cut beginning the song cycle with a man frozen in place by the faces and events passing by on a variety of screens right in front of his eyes, watching ratings rise with death tolls as he lets his mind wander. He is just one the characters walking the corridors of The Filter Bubble Blues. The men and women that find themselves the centerpoints of the songs are the fuel for David Dondero’s stories. A devotee of Woody Guthrie, David Dondero received early musical advice from Bruce Springsteen to Black Flag, David’s words all tipped with a rock’n’roll bite. The tales that unfold take today into consideration as David Dondero takes a tour in the museum of sunken ideas, meandering down corridors of racial tension in “Underwater Sculpture Garden” while gun violence is the topic of “Empty Gesture” and disappearing neighborhoods for “All the Empty Houses” as indignity, bigotry, and social studies the lessons within “The Presidential Palace of Pornography”. David Dondero is poking the population, his hopes that his opinions break through the wall established between us and them. Our troubled times watch as the atmosphere becomes toxic, the result is a numbness that is (at times) an insurmountable barrier that divides friends and families. The weather is the stage setting when David Dondero links health to high winds with “Thought I Was a Hurricane” and tributes a victim of the Charlottesville civil rights unrest rally, “Heather Heyer” while The Filter Bubble Blues wonder about consequences in “When the Pendulum Swings”.
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Eleven Hundred Springs (from the album Here ‘Tis is available on State Fair Records)
Following centuries of humans stomping on our ecological footprint we have a world of hybrids. Innovation sometimes requires borrowing from the past and marrying diverse food groups, colors, fabric, bloodlines, and music. While appreciating the artists pushing at the walls of sound, when a pure form of art raises its voice, there is little competition….and don’t it sound sweet. That is the spot where the music of Eleven Hundred Springs lives. For nearly twenty years, Eleven Hundred Springs have cultivated, curated, and carried songs native to a Country band. The latest release from Eleven Hundred Springs, Here ‘Tis, watches the boys in the band finding their spots on the stage, plugging in, and proudly playing Country music, thank you very much.
This is your grandma’s music, and your grandfather’s, and all their friends. Here ‘Tis spins a jukebox selection of unheard AM Gold, Eleven Hundred Springs putting a sway to sad as they shuffle alongside “Fair Weather Friend”, pull the plug from social media buzz with a sturdy rhythm with “Nobody Cares”, and let the morning light rest on a hefty beat as reality dawns in “This Morning It Was Too Late”. Eleven Hundred Springs turn pages on the band’s personal history with “Looking Back”, cherishing each and every mile of the road and the good fortune of playing their music. City living gets the boot when Here ‘Tis finds an exit in “Let’s Move Out to the Country” as a fiddle sets the spark for the trotting pace of “Let Me Be Your Man” while Eleven Hundred Springs send out a love letter with a Country melody that hits the heart in “The Song You’ll Never Hear”.
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Paul Kelly (from the album Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits- Songs from The South - 1985-2019 available on Cooking Vinyl Limited)
For several generations of Australians, Paul Kelly has been the gold standard of songwritering. Paul is the artist to emulate, a mentor who not only shared craft with legions of learners, Paul’s ability to sound-shift within his songs subtly gave freedom to musical options. Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits- Songs from The South - 1985-2019 collects his output from nearly thirty-five years. Beyond the obvious benefit of gathering well-loved songs under one banner, the hits package displays the dedication of the man with his name on the cover. Paul Kelly has taken on his job with gusto, his resilience and dedication to his role of performer have kept his music fresh and his career contemporary. Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits- Songs from The South - 1985-2019 compliments the 1997 release Songs from the South by filling in the full musical story of Paul’s recordings.
Heading back to his first solo release, Post, Paul Kelly makes a wish within a three-minute song on “From St. Kilda to Kings Cross”. His rock’n’roll band work receives a nod with several tracks by Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls (“Dumb Things”, “Before Too Long”) as well his rootsier effort Paul Kelly & The Messengers (“From Little Things Big Things Grow”). A master songwriter, Paul Kelly offers a musical buffet, celebrating 35 years of recording with an easy shrug, unloading of bag of musical diversity as his melodies travel across Folk, Country, Rock, and Soul. Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits- Songs from The South - 1985-2019 closes out its double-record set with an unreleased tune with Kasey Chambers, “When We’re Both Old & Mad”.
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G Love & Special Sauce (from the album The Juice available Philadelphonic Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Garrett Dutton, aka G Love, has stuck by a laidback and loose musical formula since 1994. It is a blueprint where acoustic Blues and American Folk music buddies around with Hip Hop street beats, Funk, and Soul, a sound that at the most will pack a dance floor, at the least inspire a head bob or foot tap. The latest release from the band begins with the title track “The Juice” classic G. Love slacker boogie, inspired by a timeless jam of Blues, Soul and R&B. G Love states the opener track is ‘a letter, but also a song’ calling for a ‘better world for our daughters and sons’. It is a protest, a hopeful album opener where album guest Marcus King's guitar solo is the glorious star. The cut is followed by Roosevelt Collier and his steel guitar, also claiming stardom on the dirty Funk cut "Soul-B-Que."
"Shake Your Hair" will fill the dance floor, and though ‘throw your hands in the air’ may be a played-out line, any boredom is trampled as the whole song becomes one huge, throbbing rocker. “She's the Rock” is a love song that drops the Blues influence and favors a keyboard heavy Pop sound, “Shine on Moon” with Keb’ Mo’ is traditional Blues and “Birmingham” in all its slickness has Robert Randolph’s sacred steel serving as a mind-blowing musical exclamation point. "Drinkin' Wine" with its novel whistling intro is a loose drinking song, wrapping up with G Love leading a call and response reprise of “The Juice." (by Bryant Liggett)`
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