Janiva Magness (from the album Love is an Army available on Blue Elan Records)
There are plenty of issues to go around. The answer for Janiva Magness is her song “Love to a Gunfight”. Country Blues is the soundtrack as Janiva Magness confronts the conversation about gun control, suggests the strongest wall will be built when we lock arms, and advocates to ‘stand up and step out of line and break the law when love is a crime’ as she fills the ranks with words and music, offering Love is An Army as a way to win a war. Inspiration comes from personal experience when Janiva Magness gets in the face of white entitlement in “Tell Me”, wraps memories of good times in a slow dance with challenges in “When It Rains”, and slides a Memphis groove underneath a message to help others in “What’s That They Say About You”.
Musically, Love is an Army uses the Rhythm and the Blues to build a bridge between sounds of the past and the present as it tells ageless tales of love and protest. Guests stop by for the recording of Love is an Army with Hill Country bluesman Cedric Burnside stomping alongside the rhythmic boom of “Home” and Courtney Hartman (Della Mae) joining the band for “Down Below”. Love is an Army beats a slow drum for the march of the title track, Janiva Magness joined by Bryan Stephens on the cut with Rusty Young (Poco) on board for vocal and pedal steel work in “On and On”, Charlie Mussellwhite stepping up to the microphone with his harmonica on “Hammer”, and top-shelf Blues crooner Delbert McClinton the male counterpart of the relationship in “What Could I Do”. Janiva Magness collects the masses, leading the faithful into Love is An Army as boots hit the ground in a smoldering-groove procession for “Back to Blue”.
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Szlachetka (from the album Heart of My Hometown)
SLA-HET-KA is the correct pronunciation. On Heart of My Hometown, the recent release from Szlachetka, learning to articulate his name will prove much easier than defining the sound of the album. Szlachetka approaches each song with an attention to detail that gives the tracks a Pop shine. The production on Heart of My Hometown keeps a blue-collar beat pulsing as Szlachetka delivers a bar band anthem for its title track, putting a rock’n’roll rhythm underneath as the story rips off its rear-view mirror and heads out on the highway towards the bright light of promise. Katelyn Clampett joins Szlachetka as muted strums and orchestrated strings pick “Wildflowers on the Highway” while a second chance does the math for its mistakes in “Algebra” as Heart of My Hometown channels thunder for the rhythm rumble of “Dark Clouds Over Me” and taps out the time for its heart to start beating again in “Until the Echo”.
Starting out in music as part of the band The Northstar Sessions, Szlachetka left the group after ten years of touring and recording, relocating to the west coast prior to settling in Nashville, Tennessee. Heart of My Hometown, his second solo album release, fingerpicks notes for “A Letter Each Morning” to send love back home, asking “Don’t You Think It’s Time” to shed false skin and hops on a powerful backbeat that spins the addiction merry-go-round in “Ready to Run Again”. Szlachetka, along with producer David Bianco, offers perfect musical moments to back real-life stories comfortable in thrift-store clothes as Heart of My Hometown plans a party behind the barn, swaying to a mysterious melody as it climbs “Ladder to the Stars” and tenderly closes out the album with “Giving Back the Best of Me”.
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Michelle Malone (from the album Slings & Arrows)
Voice and guitar get a co-billing on Slings & Arrows, the recent release from Michelle Malone. The Atlanta, Georgia-based artist proudly wears her Southern home as a badge of honor, crediting Slings & Arrows as a ‘Georgia album’, Michelle explain that ‘I take a lot of pride in Georgia and the importance that Georgia music has played not only in my music but also in American music in general. Georgians such as Little Richard, James Brown, Ray Charles all laid the ground work. Without them, we would never have had Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones…there would be no rock’n’roll. Blues, Soul, and Rock’n’Roll all whisper into Michelle Malone’s ear as she translates the sounds into her own musical language on Slings & Arrows.
Sweet southern Soul gets remade on Slings & Arrows as Michelle Malone welcomes Shawn Mullins into the album when the pair partner on Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” as she shares co-writes on the album with fellow Georgian Randall Bramblett (“Fox and the Hound”) and singer/songwriter Eliot Bronson (“The Flame”, “Sugar on My Tongue”). A rattle of percussion introduces the advice to “Love Yourself” into Slings & Arrows as Michelle Malone scratches out Folk Blues with “Beast’s Boogie” and puts the future on notice with “Just Getting Started”.
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Mark Erelli (from the album Mix Tape)
Before being used as arrows hitting send, fingers were touching buttons to receive. Mark Erelli grew up between the musical worlds of vinyl and CD, making him a member in good standing of the cassette generation. Mark recalls the times when messages were delivered by music, songs conveying the words and sentiments that never seemed to surface in conversation. For his latest studio recording, Mark Erelli delivers album number eleven in his catalog as a collection of covers with Mixtape. The album is an extension of a yearly gathering of musical friends and fans at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the Under the Covers shows with Mark Erelli along with musicians such as Lori McKenna and Rose Cousins offering versions of cherished songs from other pens.
As an audio gateway drug, Mark Erelli credits the Grateful Dead, citing the band as a personal favorite that he followed back to other bands and genres such as Blues, Folk, Bluegrass, and Soul through their concert tapes. Mixtape opens with a cover of The Dead’s “Brokedown Palace”, the track joining cuts from artists ranging over the past fifty years of music from Roy Orbison (“Crying”) and Solomon Burke (“Don’t Give Up on Me”) to Arcade Fire (“My Body is a Cage”) and Neko Case (“Deep Red Bells”). The tune segue-ways on Mixtape dig deep into catalogs, unearthing gems like “Tony” from Patty Griffin and “I Feel So Good” from Richard Thompson as the album reworks movie soundtracks such as Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)”. Mark Erelli slows the frenetic pace of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”, re-telling the tale over an arrangement as sparse as the empty streets he cruises while Mixtape turns into “Ophelia” wonder along with The Band’s cut just where the mysterious lady has gone.
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Dave Goddess Group (from the E.P. Last of the West Side Cowboys)
New York City Rock’n’Roll has no need to grow up. The rawness and the grit are perfect for city streets that match the characters in the songs and the sharp edges of the melody, the real life that walks through the stories. Dave Goddess Group are torchbearers for the three-chords-and-the-truth gold ring that NYC bands try to grab as they spin through the local music scene. For more than a decade, Dave Goddess Group have taken their music off the island of Manhattan, beyond Brooklyn and the boroughs, building a fallowing one true believer at a time. Last of the West Side Cowboys, the latest release from Dave Goddess Group, punches with a beat ready for a street fight. The title track opens the E.P. using a back story seen through the eyes of George Hayde, the final train rider…. the “Last of the West Side Cowboys”. Dave Goddess provides the history of a time ‘from 1846 to 1941, an above ground train used to take freight up and down 10th Avenue in Manhattan. I live on that street today. Anyway, it was dangerous back then, with the train routinely hitting pedestrians. So New York City hired cowboys, real ones, who rode their horses in front of the trains, swinging lanterns and clearing the tracks. Eventually New York built what is now The Highline, an elevated platform to get the trains off the streets and the West Side Cowboys were out of work’.
A whole lot of real pens the tales in Last of the West Side Cowboys, a “Better Man” materializing in memories that swirl like the Beatles-esque melodies that swim through the song as the rhythms slow like the drugs coursing through veins with “Tears in Rain”. Dave Goddess Group travel “Providence Road” and stumble through the tangled tale in “Paradise Lost” while Last of the West Side Cowboys goes back to political musicians of the past to ask John and Joe (Strummer) about the chaos of the moment in “Roll Over John Lennon”.
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Matthews Southern Comfort (from the album Like a Radio)
Over a long career, Iain Matthews has changed the delivery method for his music, keeping the Roots touch in his tracks, the warm Folk Rock, and a blend of electric and acoustic instruments. A founding member of Fairport Convention, and bandmate for their first three albums, Iain Matthews departed the group to form Matthews Southern Comfort and Plainsong in the 1970’s. Bands and solo work offered the words and music of Iain Matthews as frequent album releases, and on his recent album, Like a Radio, Iain Matthews goes to his early 1970’s group concept, Matthews Southern Comfort, to back his songs. Feeling that the short-lived band never got the sound Iain Matthews was hearing, he uses Like a Radio to complete the journey of Matthews Southern Comfort.
From a homebase in the Netherlands, Matthews Southern Comfort dip a memory in psychedelic west coast Folk Rock as “Chasing Rainbows” steps into the California sunshine. Delicate guitar notes announce “The Thought Police” to open Like a Radio as a sad Country tale says goodbye in “Right as Rain”, a sharp-edged melody guides “Crystals on the Glass”, and “Darcy Farrow” glides in on melancholy piano rambles. An all Dutch lineup backs Iain for the new incarnation of Matthews Southern Comfort as they wander down a percussive trail into “The Age of Isolation”, channel an island breeze for the rhythms of “Phoenix Rising” and walk through a dreamy shuffle with “Jive Pajamas” while Like a Radio dials Jazz into the title track.
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Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager (from the album Rough Cut available on Alligator Records)
The Pacific Northwest is home to Bluesmen Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager. The pair began playing together in 2003, with Alan Hager and his guitar coming full-time into a band led by Curtis Salgado in 2015. Rough Cut stages the soulful vocals and harmonica of Curtis Salgado alongside Alan Hager’s guitar work as the pair team up to record and produce the Alligator Records release. The music of Rough Cut divides time up between originals from Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager and versions of cuts by Big Bill Broonzy (“I Want You by My Side”), Muddy Waters (“I Can’t Be Satisfied”), Elmore James (“You Got to Move”), Sonny Boy Williamson (“Too Young to Die”), and traditional Blues standards (“Morning Train”).
Beginning a career in Blues while in his twenties, Curtis Salgado made a name in the Northwest music scene with The Nighthawks prior to becoming co-leader of The Robert Cray Band. While an early student of the Blues, after graduating from Berklee School of Music, where he studied under Pat Metheny, Alan Hager found a seat in Classical music before moving back to the Northwest. Curtis Salgado felt that Alan Hager is ‘the best player in the business, unlike anybody else. One reason I made this record was to show him off’. Rough Cut showcases the playing of both Bluesmen, matching their original tracks with Blues history as Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager save their prayers for a best friend with “I Want My Dog to Live Longer (The Greatest Wish)”. Opening the album with slow churning Blues, Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager declare that “I Will Not Surrender” and barrel roll the Blues to put a groove underneath Curtis as he proudly states his future with “Hell in a Handbasket” as Rough Cut picks notes out of acoustic Folk with a Son House tune (“Depot Blues”) and makes a boogie beat the soundtrack for “One Night Only”.
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