Lilly Hiatt (from the album Walking Proof on New West Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
The gentle electric guitar that kicks off Walking Proof, the latest release from Lilly Hiatt, proves to be pleasantly deceiving. That gentle strumming gives way to some stabbing guitar that rears its head again and again throughout the album, pushing Walking Proof into rough-around-the-edges Indie Rock territory. It is a great soundscape to explore and live in, giving the music an extra punch that electric Folk sometimes needs to Rock.
Album opener, “Rae”, sings about that friend that brings out the best in you, helping you ‘throw caution to the wind and don’t give a damn’. It is a light and airy cut that gives way to the guitar riffs opening “P-Town”, where Lilly Hiatt tells a tale of what seems to be a doomed trip to the Northwest U.S. though she does dish out the line of the year in ‘don’t you hate when people say it is what it is?’. “Some Kind of Drug” has guitar nodding to post-Hardcore experimental Punk while “Candy Lunch” and the title track, the former with trading Pedal Steel and electric guitar leads, the latter with fiddle riffs and Folk with just the right amount of jangle. Lilly Hiatt has created a sing-along space on Walking Proof’s strongest cut when she sings ‘the boys downstairs, they got the record on, they know all the words, to my favorite song’. The track, “Never Play Guitar”, harkens to the mid-90’s when Alt Country was becoming a bigger thing and Punk Rock flirted with Country Roots sounding like a marriage between The Jayhawks and Alex Chilton. Album closer, “Scream”, is an ambient and dreamy, a fitting end to a record where Lilly Hiatt musically goes where she claims ‘I ain’t slowing down for nobody’. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real (from the album Naked Garden available on Fantasy Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
The latest from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real celebrates imperfection. Naked Garden is about as organically grown as a record should be. No time spent doing dozens of takes on one song, no studio trickery. Naked Garden is honest and real, a solid reflection of the humans that made it. Scars and all, you can hear the casual vibe of the studio in the songs, and just as a live performance, if a musician blows is as the tape rolls, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real just pick up and move forward. The result is Naked Garden. a rollicking dose of humanity over a bed of bouncy Rock and a solid groove.
The album opens with a song of escape, with Lukas Nelson speak-sings “Entirely Different”, stating ‘gonna take a ride, the good kind of ride, the wanna get lost in space kind of ride’ as the tune gradually builds until its Rock’n’Roll riffs careen off into five minutes of wonderfully psychedelic meandering.
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real offer some slower cuts with “Focus on the Music”, “Fade to Black”, and “The Way You Say Goodbye,” the latter with a lounge vibe focusing on a center-stage groove. “Back When I Cared” is a good time, what-the-hell cut with Bourbon Street attitude while “My Own Wave” and “Stars Made of You” have a driving bass, heavy R&B groove. Naked Garden pulls you into the studio with Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. The opening count, a shouted-out ‘1-2-3-4’ and post-fadeout player to player accolades are part of the package, giving a studio album a live show feel, and personality to the whole recorded package. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Sam Doores (from the album Sam Doores available on New West Records)
The vocal of Sam Doores moves to a marching cadence as “Let It Roll” floats through a myriad of sounds, all reflected from a funhouse mirror while the album drifts lightly on the dreamlike melodic gauze of “Push On” and tumbles in the hopes inside the kaleidoscopic turns of “Had a Dream”. After spending time as a band member in The Deslondes and Hurray for the Riff, the self-titled Sam Dooresis the solo debut for the musician. Former Hurray for the Riff Raff bandmate Alynda Lee Segarra joins Sam Doores in sock hop Rock’n’Roll beat of “Other Side of Town”.
Multiple studios played host to Sam Doores, the songwriter tapping Ander ‘Ormen’ Christopherson as Berlin, Germany producer and Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) as producer in Nashville, Tennessee while Sam made use of homegrown talent for New Orleans, Louisiana recordings. Sonics breath in and out underneath the story of “Cambodian Rock’n’Roll” while a strong beat tethers the confessions of “This Ain’t a Sad Song” to the ground as the stripped-down arrangement in “Windmills” matches the stark landscape that watches the turbines spin. Psychedelic textures swirl around Sam Doores as he guides his everyman stories through oompah bands beats (“Nothing Like a Suburb”), swamp Blues (“Solid Road”), dancehall Rock’n’Roll (“Wish You Well”), shuffling Folk (“Must Be Somethin”), and Southern Gothic noir (“Red Leaf Rag”).
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King Solomon Hicks (from the album Harlem on Provogue Records)
The sound of Soul music permeates each and every note, nuance, rhythm, and Blues of Harlem, the recent release from album title native son, King Solomon Hicks. A pounding beat shows no mercy while the guitar work of King Solomon Hicks bares teeth in the instrumental cruising “Riverside Drive” as his wriggling guitar line snakes in and under, wrapping around “What the Devil Loves”. Harlem shows a tender side in the smooth glide of “I Love You More Than You Ever Know” while the album makes a Blues crawl through “Help Me” as guitar notes fire sparks and blend Blues with Garage Rock shouting “It’s Alright”.
Growing up in Harlem, King Solomon Hicks was in the audience of local Jazz clubs with his parents, teaching himself guitar by age six, polishing his skill set at private parties and local jams. ‘Play or pay’ takes on a new meaning when the thirteen-year-old guitarist was tossed onstage backing local artists at the infamous Cotton Club. Now hitting his mid-20’s, King Solomon Hicks pays tribute to the sounds of Soul that trained him, riding a Rock’n’Soul groove for “Headed Back to Memphis”, tapping his toe to the sunshine beat of Southern Soul for “I’d Rather Be Blind”, and stepping on the gas pedal barreling down Highway 61 in “Have Mercy on Me”. Produced by Kirk Yano (Miles Davis, Public Enemy), Harlemsalutes its heroes in song while King Solomon Hicks borrows from personal favorites for versions of “Everyday I Have the Blues” as he concocts a funky jam for Gary Wright’s “Love is Alive”.
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David Clayton-Thomas (from the album Say Somethin’ available on Linus Entertainment)
Careful moves are important when developing a career, and David Clayton-Thomas made each step count when life handed him a 10xplatinum album with his debut as lead vocalist for Blood, Sweat, and Tears on the band’s self-titled release. The album garnered five Grammy awards including Best Album and Best Performance by a Male Vocalist, topping the Billboard list for nine weeks and staying on the chart for nearly four months. While his history would never judge the songman for using achievements to erect a reboot statue standing for past glory, David Clayton-Thomas presents his latest release, Say Somethin’, as a pulpit to preach for change. Walking a midway of mad carnival music, “The Circus” spins and twirls while the music walks a Gospel march addressing “Dear Mr. Obama” as David Clayton-Thomas points fingers at “This Town” and wraps his arms around “God’s Country”
Making the title of Say Somethin’ stand by its claim, David Clayton-Thomas strides into the album on the talking Blues of first cut “Burwash”, vowing “Never Again” on an equally no-nonsense beat, reads from daily headlines to pen “A Bright Shining City”, and fronts a gypsy jug band to tell the story of “King Midas”. Accepting the job title Speaker of Truths, Say Somethin’ pulls no punches as its views the state of juvenile justice in “The System”.
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Trout Steak Revival (from the album The Light We Bring available as a self-release)
There is an ingredient in the string band music gathering in the Colorado Rockies and the various mountain peaks the rise up in states west of the Mississippi River. Trout Steak Revival have bottled that ‘mountain magic’ special sauce that lathers the cosmic Bluegrass of the band on The Light We Bring, their recent release. Assured strums from the individual players of Trout Steak Revival become a mighty current that courses across album opener “Through the Pines”. The audio of The Light We Bring stays tuned to the environment in the gentle breezes of “Only a Moment” while its rhythms pelt like hard rain in “Home”, glint like sunlight through leaves in “The Heart Wants”, and rush like a spring thaw heading downstream for “Loretta”.
Self-produced by Trout Steak Revival, The Light We Bring welcomes guest musicians who expand of the sound of the Colorado string band with touches of orchestral strings as well as brass and woodwind instrumentation. The Light We Bring lets out a volley of notes that become a whirlwind churning for “Arrows in the Dark” and plays a desert trance in the instrumental “Johnny’s Dirge” as Trout Steak Revival offer advice in “How to Make Love Stay” and sing a highway love song to exit the album with “The Way It Moves”.
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Miracle Whips (from the album The Art of Facts available on DevilDuck Records)
Sadness is in the air. The music of Miracle Whips on The Art of Facts (their latest release) supports the melancholy, adding somber tones to tales of legendary low points in “Captain Fuckpants” as the album trudges along life’s path from childhood forward with “Small and Good” walking under dark orchestral clouds. Miracle Whips scatter haunted piano notes that skip around the exit wishes of “Still Not Souled” and use the firm structure of instrumentation to corral the dreamy Americana reveries and lonely trumpet calls of “The Stockade”. The Art of Facts opens its song cycle with a part spoken/part sung reading over the revolving rhythms in “Book of Matches” while a lumbering heart beats to lead the funereal western ghosts over the melodies of “Go with Gone”.
A trio of Portland, Oregon musicians, Jason Merritt (Whip, Timesbold), Paul Dillon (Miracle Falls, Sparklehorse, Mercury Rev), and Jeff Mercel, (Mercury Rev, Ultraam, Grand Mal) are the blend that makes Miracle Whips. The band’s bio is as stripped-down bare bones as the sound of The Art of Facts, Miracle Whips offering a resume as ‘we write songs on the porch like in the old days, also we are old...’. Mortality shuffles and shrugs, swaying to “5 in Gold” as an electric guitar utters a whispery growl and a story stumbles out of the shakey voice telling the tale of “Blue Guitar” while The Art of Facts spits out the words and kicks at the music to welcome “Stupid Bird”.
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The Legendary Ingramettes (from the album Take a Look in the Book available on Virginia Folklife Records)
Soul Sisters Singing for Salvation is the marquee claim for The Legendary Ingramettes announcing their recent release, Take a Look in the Book. While humility is a goal, if saving souls is your business, the good word needs a bigger sound system. Enter The Legendary Ingramettes, following a bass line to glory in the title track as Take a Look in the Book remembers the rhythms of uptown Saturday night for “When Jesus Comes”, lets the spirit of memory slow stride across Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands”, and settles in for a rambling Folk sway with the front porch singalong in “Rock of Ages”. For many years, ‘Mama’ Maggie Ingram led The Legendary Ingramettes, the group founder guiding a band formed to take her family through hard times. Maggie is gone with daughter Almeta Ingram-Miller picking up the gospel baton as Take a Look at the Book continues the musical traditions of the male-dominated gospel groups of the 1940’s and 1950’s where helping spirits to rise up included raising the roof.
While the soundtrack of Take a Look at the Book chooses a secular punch for its songs of the spirit, The Legendary Ingramettes keep Gospel flames burning in the piano-driven steps of “I’ve Endured”, let the power of voices come to the front for “Time is Winding Up”, join together in “The Family Prayer” on a rockingly righteous rhythm, and let a Jazz light shine from above in “Hold on to God’s Unchanging Hands”. The spoken word opening of “Beulah Land/I Wanna Go There” is a delivered with an infectious joy for the memories that lead into the processional march harmony taking steps towards a heavenly hereafter as The Legendary Ingramettes embrace a home their hearts have never seen. A tsunami of salvation takes The Legendary Ingramettes out of Take a Look in the Book as they give in and give it up exiting the album with “Until I Die”.
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Mark Erelli (from the album Blindsided available as a self-release) (by Bryant Liggett)
Mark Erelli has a lot under his belt. Cases full of studio albums, songwriting credits, and collaborations find the Massachusetts native dipping his toes into bluegrass and Western Swing waters in addition to his Folkie and Roots Rock work. Mark Erelli is extremely visible, under-the-radar musician that can cross genres, sit in comfortably with diverse bands and hold his own with both the players and his solo work. The latest Mark Erelli album, Blindsided, is another collection of his growing and respectable canon, a release of Indie Folk, Roots Rock and laid back Rock’n’Roll.
The title track opens Blindsided with an all too familiar, smitten at first sight, universal tale of the heart with a terrible ending where ‘love can set you free but love can be your prison’. The track is followed with the barroom rocker “Can’t Stand Myself”, a rowdy ‘yeah’ leading into a piano roll, the story dominated by the honest admission of ‘I can’t stand myself when I let you down’. “Her Town Now” has the jangle of a 1980’s Paisley Underground tune and “Strangers Eyes” carries a slight slow-moving R&B groove. “Rose-Colored Rearview” is a tear-jerker that digs up a trunkful of memories, when ‘Springsteen was mainstream, everybody had a hungry-heart’. The piano ballad “Careless” wraps up the record with Mark Erelli painting a descriptive view of heartache, all the way down to the dude sitting in an empty kitchen staring at the clock on the wall, wishing for ‘one more shot’ so he could ‘give it all I got’. Blindsided is ballad heavy with a rocker cut here, a mid-tempo groove there, it is a nod to Mark Erelli’s diversity that the album showcases an ability to cross genre lines. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Carla Olson (from the album Have Harmony, Will Travel 2 available on Sunset Blvd. Records)
The British Invasion, the Paisley Underground, sunny 1970’s country rock, Laurel Canyon and Los Angeles’s Rootsy Punk all come together on the latest album from Carla Olson. A sequel following the success of the original Volume One with Have Harmony, Will Travel 2 finds Carla Olson jumping into duet territory with eleven musicians, past or present inspirations that lend their voices and playing to a record of laid back Roots Rock with plenty of jangle and twang.
Soft harmonies introduce Have Harmony Will Travel Volume Two on the gentle “Timber, I’m Falling in Love” featuring Stephen McCarthy of The Long Ryders, followed by chickin-pickin’ guitar riffs that introduces a two-stepping tune featuring Timothy B. Schmidt in “A Childs Claim to Fame”. “Shackles & Chains” is a Roots Rocker where Carla Olson pleads ‘let me go, let me ramble I don’t wanna know your pain’, a chugger driven by the guitar work of original Bee Gee Vince Melouney. Fuzzy Garage Rock guitar leads the animated party cut “Uno Mundo,” Percy Sledge joins in on the slow, soulful, Gospel inspired “Honest as Daylight” that also features heavy horns while Olson is backed by the California country outfit I See Hawks in L.A. on “Bossier City”. “Del Gato” closes out Have Harmony Will Travel Volume Two with Olson joined by Gene Clark of The Byrds. Olson has `put together a heck of a duet record, joined by some familiar, but more unfamiliar names who will likely (deservedly) gain notoriety from the Alternative Roots and Country Punk crowd.
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