Marcus King (from the album El Dorado available on Fantasy Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Considered his ‘solo debut’ as Marcus King, despite already having records out as The Marcus King Band, the latest from the young, badass guitar player continues to showcase his firm foothold in the Blues Rock world. Tag the Dan Auerbach produced El Dorado with added styles like Gospel, Blues, and Soul, toss it into the Rock’n’Roll section of whatever record stores remain, and let the album prove Marcus Kings well-deserved spot in the festival circuit as well as the Groove Boogie and Blues Rock scenes.
A soft, Country Blues acoustic mood intros El Dorado on “Young Man’s Dream” with Marcus King sounding well beyond his years as he sings ‘left home when I was 17, my feet were dirty, but my soul was clean, I’m still looking for that young man’s dream’. A rocking, dirty guitar riff on “The Well” trails after the lead cut, followed by the heavy “Wildflowers and Wine,” a tune that wouldn’t be out of place at a Sunday morning service. ‘Ever hear a song, come on that radio, make you want to reach over, grab the dial, and turn it on up?’. It is a simple question that kicks off “Turn it Up” and it pulsing, building boogie, followed by “Too Much Whiskey” that is a huge nod, if not sequel, to the Willie-Whiskey tune. Marcus King must have grown up with friends bending his ear on Stax, Motown and Muscle Shoals, as his sound on El Dorado is nothing short of a reflection of great American songbook. Fine influences indeed, and for a dude barely into his twenties, those muses provide nothing but future musical promise.
Listen and buy the music of Marcus King from AMAZON
Visit The Marcus King Band website for more information
Shea Rafferty (from the album To the Morning Sky available as a self-release)
Roots find their source, digging deep into the earth encircling the globe to drink from a well of Folk, Blues, Country, Rock’n’Roll, and Soul that grew up on U.S. soil, enriched by the musical heritage brought to its shores by all cultures. Shea Rafferty collects the sounds, the songs on his recent release, To the Morning Sky, reflecting the influence of Country (“Life Be Gentle”) and honky tonk rock’n’roll (“Running Wild”) on dark rhythms (“Kings and Queens”), dancehall cabaret (“Long Walk”), and moody late night noir (“Goodbye”). To the Morning Sky, his debut, was captured in Portland, Oregon, Shea Rafferty packing up his tunes to record with Gregg Williams (Jesse Malin/Blitzen Trapper) and co-writer Troy Stewart.
Born in Northern Ireland and based in North London, England, Shea Rafferty uses a vast palette of musical history to soundtrack his stories of life, his persona mingling with the lives passing him. Accepting the role of teacher alongside storyteller, Shea Rafferty makes the obvious clearer, his voice ringing like a bell leading us to a better future in “Rise”, the echoed harmony of the song a whispered intonation in your ear to inspire. Scratchy chords are the welcome into To the Morning Sky, Shea Rafferty beginning the song cycle admitting that “These Days” fit him fine, his mood mirrored in the dual guitar leads that tumble across the track. To the Morning Sky shines its light on diverse styles, all comfortable in the words and music of Shea Rafferty, making its mark with heft on the assured strut through “One of a Kind” and tenderly letting hushed notes flicker over the urging of a hammering beat to provide his take on trust with “That’s What Friends Are For”.
Listen and buy the music of Shea Rafferty from AMAZON
Visit the Shea Rafferty website for more information
Big Lazy (from the album Dear Trouble available on Checkered Past Records)
Using notes and rhythms, Big Lazy present cinematic swaths of music that glide and groove over their latest release, Dear Trouble. Heavy steps walk into the album, guitar lines striding over fat bass notes and jittery beats as “The Onliest” chugs across Dear Trouble. The sound of tires hitting blacktop is a meditative thump underneath “Exit Tucson” while a rockabilly bustle pours out from “Cheap Crude”, a seductive noir mood drifts over “Fly Paper”, and Peter Hess’ saxophone capably guides the melody around the dreamscape jam of “Sing Sing”.
Big Lazy has been a mainstay for two decades in downtown Manhattan, playing everywhere from dive bars to museum rotundas. The band’s founder, Stephen Ulrich, welcomes fellow NYC musicians to join the trio when Marc Ribot lends his guitar work to “Cardboard Man” and “Mr. Wrong” while the emotive keyboards of Marlysse Rose Simmons accent “Ramona” and Steve Bernstein pops out trumpet notes for “Girl”. Big Lazy makes the old bump and grind the dance du jour for “Sizzle & Pops” and lets sound wash over the rhythms like rainwater coursing down a window for the Dear Trouble title track.
Listen and buy the music of Big Lazy from AMAZON
Visit the Big Lazy website for more information
Windborne (from the album Recollections/Revolutions available on Wan’dring Feet Records)
While harmony and singing voices are certainly a huge part of Windborne, the four members display the depth and breadth of a vocal group. Their recent release, Recollections/Revolutions, spotlights the rhythms, the nuanced emotions, and the passionate accents of Windborne. The album goes beyond a track listing of vocal cuts, presenting its songs in pure forms, sourcing origins by adding a desperate tone of defiance to “Bread and Roses”, playfully recalling simple pleasures in “Lazy John”, following the haunted echo of marching feet into Harlan Country mines for “Which Side Are You On”, and laying vocals over the flutter of notes in “Blackest Crow”.
The four singers of Windborne, Lynn Mahoney Rowan, Will Thomas Rowan, Lauren Breunig, and Jeremy Carter-Gordon, grew up immersed in the traditional music and dance communities of New England, discovering and developing a love for world Folk music while still in their teens. Recollections/Revolutions is a double set of songs, both albums featuring cuts that celebrate life hereafter with spirituals (“Ain’t No Grave”) joining fellow humans on their journey (“Going Across the Sea”), standing proud on picket lines (“Fire in the Hole”), and lighting the torches of rebellion (“Song on the Times”). Taking tunes from Windborne’s native American soil, Recollections/Revolutions curates traditional songs from Corsica, the Republic of Georgia, Bulgaria, Quebec, and Basque country. Windborne take on the role of soldier in Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, find young love with “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms”, and hold tight to this mortal coil in “Gimme Just a Little More Time”, their voices giving flesh and blood to the long line of humans and their history in the music
Listen and buy the music of Windborne from AMAZON
Visit the Windborne website for more information
Sunny Gable (from the album Audience of One available as a self-release) (by Bryant Liggett)
Contrary to her album title, she is a musician worthy of having an audience of more than one. Sunny Gable, the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist behind the roots outfit Sunny and the Whiskey Machine, has wowed audiences around the Southwest with gutsy and soulful vocals, whether playing her Bluegrass tinged originals or covering from Aretha Franklin to The Talking Heads. The Sunny Gable solo debut, Audience of One, has Sunny backed by her Whisky Machine bandmates, dropping their Roots twang for a more traditional Folk approach with the vocals sturdy, smooth, and ever-present.
“Rise” is a mournful and hopeful opener of optimistic promise. The story’s character showing that she’ll rise, she’ll fall ‘and the ground begins to crumble, almost every night’ but she’ll get up every time. “How to Catch a Northern Star” is a sailor song, a tale of ‘129 strong and able men, enough rum and food to lift our mood when our patience is running thin’ that proves Sunny Gable can also spin a tale from out of history. “Old ‘88” is a picturesque travel tune with a fun bounce while the title track is a lonely number with a even lonelier fiddle, Sunny Gable asking ‘why am I so damn good at letting everybody down?’. “Battle Cry” kicks off with a military drum beat that progresses into a marching tune while maintaining a slight groove. The closer in “Sweeter Than a Song (Finn’s Lullaby)” is a tearjerker nod to Gable’s ‘beacon in the fog’, her youngest child.
Backed by her long-time bandmates, Sunny Gable has kept a Roots music configuration without making an overtly Roots record, her strong vocals gaining power when studio magic has Sunny Gable backing herself. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Sunny Gable from AMAZON
Visit the Sunny Gable website for more information
The Birds of Ontario (from the album The Birds of Ontario available on as a self-release)
Songwriting and performing was basis for the twenty-year musical collaboration of The Birds of Ontario. The pair, Joe Roncetti and Eric Grovenor, gather their tunes together under a self-titled release, The Birds of Ontario soundtracking the tales with Country Folk (“Come to Me”), dirty Electric Blues (“Anybody Now”), psychedelic wanderings (“Falling”), slinky Rock grooves (“Sail Apart”), and scratchy Rock’n’Roll (“In My Mind”). The Birds of Ontario is a jukebox for assorted beats and styles. The band competently shape-shifts between genres, opening the album with spit and snarl, stomping out a badass beat for “She’s Got Time” while The Birds of Ontario drifts lazily across trippy desert rhythms with “Been This Way” and floats through a dreamscape on “Distant Waves”.
Listen and buy the music of The Birds of Ontario from AMAZON
Visit The Birds of Ontario website for more information
Crow vs Lion (from the album The Heart, The Time, The Pen available on ) (by Bryant Liggett)
Call it Art Folk or Emo Americana, The Heart, The Time, The Pen, the sophomore effort from Crow Vs. Lion, the musical project of Pennsylvania’s Dan Gallagher, puts a rough-edge around the Folk title and some guts to the Americana descriptor. With tossed in audio which includes the odd drone of voices and more personal script from Gallagher’s kids, the vocal ramblings give the record an industrial feel adding an inquisitive dose of oddity. An unfamiliar static to anyone born in the 2000’s, the sound of spinning a car radio dial opens The Heart, The Time, The Pen, giving way to a heavy fiddle that kicks off the lonely “Daniel Odin”, followed by a soulful “Beg, Steal & Borrow” that comes right out of an old school, gospel/R&B playbook.
“Missouri” is subtly anthemic with Indie Rock leanings disguised as a ballad, the punky “Entropy” has a hot fiddle, and “I’m Gray”, introduced with more dropped-in audio snippets, gives way to a heavy vocal chant coming off like a rap. The title track closes The Heart, The Time, The Pen, the track a mid-tempo kick and punch, not quite ranging into Cow Punk territory but exhibiting a restrained energy. The Heart, The Time, The Pen showcases Dan Gallagher’s singer/songwriter chops while also proving he can lead a more than capable roots band. A memorable takeaway is the vocals; Dan’s duets with Kiley Ryan are a stunning match, his sharp voice living comfortably alongside Ryan’s smooth, dreamy delivery. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Crow vs Lions from AMAZON
Visit the Crow vs Lion website for more information
The Adobe Collective from the album All the Space That There Is available on Love Sands Records/JTMMusic (by Bryant Liggett)
File The Adobe Collective under Indie Rock however the California quintet covers much more sonic territory. The Adobe Collective do the Cosmic Country thing, the Electro Folk with hints of Psychedelia thing, and the Jazz lounge duo thing, all delivered with big, lush instrumentation and warm vocals, their slight pop element restrained by a little true grit. All the Space That There Is kicks off with “Carousel,” a sunny, California beach meets high-desert vibe. “Blind” follows with up-beat ‘woo-hoo-hoo’s’ and good timing handclaps, while “Doing It to Ourselves” is a pop number that breaks into a fist pumping rocker a third of the way in. “Never Tell” is ambient and dreamy, blown up and out for the last thirty-seconds, where Psych Rock and a manic, simulated tribal scream close out the tune.
“Warm to Me” and “All I Know” are stunning duets, the former with a moody and delicate guitar intro giving way to a slight dose of AM Gold, the latter a warm, Alternative Indie cut with Country guitar. “Taking Time” is a lazy, 60’s, Laurel Canyon inspired cut where the twangy guitar is paired with an acoustic six-string, one carefully placed on top of the other, and the closer in “Happy That It Hurts” wraps up the record with an industrial nod. There’s no melody, just ambient noise and slightly distorted vocals, a fit ending for a band unafraid to remain ambiguous. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of The Adobe Collective from AMAZON
Visit the The Adobe Collective website for more information
Sarah Jane Scouten (from the album Confessions available on Light Organ Records)
Using Confessions as a reveal, Sarah Jane Scouten picks pieces of her persona, sketching her likes, dislikes, and observations on life into her latest release. Choosing secrets as song fodder, Sarah Jane shares that ‘I love rattlesnakes. In the southern U.S., fiddlers still remove the rattle from their tails and place them inside their fiddles to "put the devil inside" or make them sound really good. I like how they protect themselves but only bite when they've been startled or attacked. They give warning with the rattling of their tail, but don't hesitate in self-defense. I don't tend to get angry very often. But when I do, I write “I'm a Rattlesnake”’. Pinning a target on the wall, Sarah Jane Scouten takes aim at relationships, spinning past partners on a wheel that puts them on a pedestal or under a bus with Confessions.
Staccato strums wave flags for a hero’s arrival in “You Are the Medicine” while Sarah Jane Scouten turns the pages of family history with the slinky groove of “Ballad of a Southern Midwife”, scatters guitar notes like sparkling starlight underneath “Crossing the Bar”, and trots out “Show Pony” with pride for a last ride. Music was a family heirloom growing up in Bowens Island, British Columbia, Canada, Sarah Jane Scouten furthering her knowledge with studies of British and American Folk music, finding lessons at the source of the sounds from the folklorists of Vancouver Island, old time late night jams in West Virginia, the songcraft of Tennessee, and her own roots in Glasgow, Scotland. Confessions frames its stories with Folk, opening the album with an overture march leading in “Dark Side” while a sedated melody settles on “Poison Oak“ and makes the rhythm throb to propel “You Still Love Him, Kid” as Sarah Jane Scouten lets her mind wander over plucked notes in “Pneumonia (to Love)”.
Listen and buy the music of Sarah Jane Scouten from AMAZON
Visit the Sarah Jane Scouten website for more information
Triggers & Slips (from the album The Stranger available on 1492007 Records)
A marriage of heart-on-your-sleeve Country and swaggering Rock’n’Roll, Triggers & Slips introduce The Stranger, the latest release from the Salt Lake City, Utah band. The songs of Triggers & Slips play dual duty, telling their story before heading for the open range with electric jams. Starting its life sparked by a rhythmic thump, “Blue Smoke” spreads out into a pounding Rock stomp as a thin beam of delicate strums begins a journey into “Natchez Trace”, rising up into a electric fist that opens in the dark tale, and rough banjo notes ground the ethereal textures laying a path for “Dig a Hole” to plant a powerful groove, part-Rock, part-Country.
Forming around frontman Morgan Snow, the band began life in 2008. Triggers & Slips put muscle into the songwriter’s words, providing the musical foundation for his Rock’n’Roll with a Country Soul vocals. The Stranger hears hinges creak as it opens its doors with the title track, the chaotic blend of sonics parting its curtain to show a pure-bred Classic Country melody. The Country touches of Triggers & Slips tint with the Blues in “I’m Not Your Baby” and wrap a sunshine gospel beat around the confessions of “Old Friends” while the album exits with a Countrified cover of Alice in Chains “The Rooster”.
Listen and buy the music of Triggers & Slips from AMAZON
Visit the Triggers & Slips website for more information