Caleb Caudle (from the album Better Hurry Up available as a self-release)
The boogie of Better Hurry Up is a scratchy groove. The latest release from Caleb Caudle is subtle rhythms, the percussion constant yet never demanding. The title track opens Better Hurry Up, handclaps, thick bass bumps, and a solid beat, the track marching confidently into the album, Caleb Caudle joined on harmony by Elizabeth Cook and John Paul White (solo, The Civil Wars). The pair of voices are repeat guests on the album, Elizabeth Cook on board for the rotating rhythms spinning through “Monte Carlo”, returning for the smooth Country groove on “Wait a Minute”. The rhythms are powerful as they undulate below John Paul White for his harmony on “Call It a Day”, tapping a toe alongside Caleb Caudle for the Country Blues of “Feelin’ Free”, and sharing in the vocals walking between the haunted melodies of “Dirty Curtain”.
Recorded at Johnny Cash’s legendary sanctuary/studio, Cash Cabin, Caleb Caudle chose John Jackson (The Jayhawks) as producer to craft an album of Mountain music memories with a modern rumble coursing throughout Better Hurry Up. Jackson’s fellow Jayhawks member Gary Louris is a guest on the harmonies of “Regular Riot” while Caleb Caudle hushes the background of “Front Porch” to let his own voice light up the memories as Better Hurry Up bounces to the beats percolating in “Let’s Get”.
Listen and buy the music of Caleb Caudle from AMAZON
Please go to the Caleb Caudle website for more information
Nick Justice (from the album The Road Not Taken available on Lulu Belle Music)
Nick Justice sings out a beacon of hope for “All Lost Souls”, his voice drifting over a dusty Americana desert sway. The Road Not Taken showcases the inspiration in Nick Justice’s words. The record opening with the tambourine rattle of “Take Me Home” and swaying as an easy rhythm becomes the pied piper beckoning down a clay-baked backroad in “Down Country”. Nick Justice is the sad minstrel singing on the Folk Rock bed of “You Didn’t Love Me Anymore”, the troubadour doling out tales of experiential wisdom on the percussive patter of “The Winds of Change”, and the stark dose of honesty on the stripped-back acoustics of “Song for Caity (A Daughter’s Song)”.
The American Southwest is home to the music of The Road Not Taken, the title track hot breaths of scratchy rhythms as the stories of Nick Justice are staged against a musical backdrop of California Country. Bright melodies keep the mood up as the dark clouds gathering above “Judgment Day” while Nick Justice is the storyteller as the cantina band backs his tale in “Left No Reply” with border town Rock’n’Roll as The Road Not Taken scatters honky tonk sawdust to work its magic on the poor soul falling fast in “Slipping Away”.
Listen and buy the music of Nick Justice from AMAZON
Please go to the Nick Justice website for more information
Phil Madeira (from the album Open Heart available on Mercyland Recordings) (by Bryant Liggett)
Phil Madeira is laid back and cool. Relaxed when crooning out a lonely ballad, chill when zipping through a mid-tempo Jazz cut. These sounds and more can be found on his latest release Open Heart, a record where Phil Madeira can toss in Blues or light piano Rock, both delivered with groove and style. Open Heart open with a New Orleans inspired ballad, “Requiem for a Dream” slowly marching along finding an ‘open heart was the scene of a crime’. The slow ones on the album aim for pulling at the heartstrings. “Rock on Your Shore” doubles as an end of the night soundtrack, the words support for working up the nerve to ask for a dance or as a plea of forgiveness while “Remember Me” is a longing love song with slow and soulful horns joined by lush harmonies.
The zippier numbers of Open Heart are what makes the album burn. “The Likes of Me” find Phil Madeira’s vocals coming as spoken word with crisp, grooving horns and cutting guitar riffs pushing the song forward. “A Problem Like You” has the rhythms a subtle bounce as Phil Madeira sings of ‘learning to live with a problem like you’, finding the you is ‘the habit I wouldn’t want to break’. Clever lyrical gems are stocked on Open Heart as is the whole concept of love. Found on on every song, the theme is summed up in the lyrically lonely “When You Ain’t Got Love”. The cut where Phil Madeira offers trading your freedom and your ‘TV dinner in the microwave’ to wear someone else’s problem and have them be yours. Phil Madeira drops names and styles in the album closer “Monk” from Nina Simone to Carter Stanley, elevator music to high-brow, but all he wants to do is ‘put on some Monk and get lost in time’. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Phil Madeira from AMAZON
Head to the Phil Madeira website for more information
Nightingale (from The EP available as a self-release)
The musical stamp of Nightingale is heartland Rock’n’Roll, a sound passed down in record collections and bar bands throughout the middle of America. The warmth in vocals sweet and thick as honey, the universal humanity in the tales of The EP, expand the reach beyond the invisible borders of the heartland, Nightingale reaching coast to coast with their latest release. Nightingale toast new found friends in “New Year’s Day” while the backing of sparkling guitar notes flickers around the plaintive pleas of “Don’t Take Your Love” as the rolling rhythms of “You and Me” ebb and flow in a Jazzy Blue groove.
A west coast ride cruises into Los Angeles, California looking for a new life behind the wheel of “Silverado” as summertime Jazz flows like a breeze through an open window across “Long Way” and Nightingale exit The EP wondering whether “These Dreams’ reflect the present or the past.
Listen and buy the music of Nightingale from AMAZON
Please go to the Nightingale website for more information
Eliza Gilkyson (from the album 2020 available on Red House Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Eliza Gilkyson is releasing her latest release 2020 to spark some change. The Austin, Texas-based songwriter is using the ‘Folk Singer’ label in its most traditional sense, throwing herself into the ring right alongside the greats of the Folk Protest Singers world. Our world needs plenty of voices to take on climate change, immigration, and the general circus jackass behavior from the administration. Even if the results of these efforts cannot be immediately gauged, these voices are necessary. Eliza Gilkyson begins 2020 straight and serious, stating on “Promises to Keep” that ‘thoughts and prayers will never make things right’. “Peace In Our Hearts” asks for unity and the ability to ‘walk together arm in arm’ while “My Heart Aches” is a heavy criticism focusing on the growing gap of human inequality, and “Beach Haven” puts music to a 1952 penned letter from Woody Guthrie written to Donald Trump’s father, questioning bigoted rent policies, Eliza Gilkyson adding music to the words.
A dark Blues riff introduces “Sooner or Later”, a gutsy cut that questions the whole notion of an afterlife as back on earth the words criticize every questionable practice in the here and now. The greed of oil capitalism to coal mining practices as the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer, offering up the hopeful phrase of ‘gonna rise up, gonna take it all back’. Eliza Gilkyson dips into the protest song canon with a minimalist version of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and a gentle cover of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”. A sad fiddle gives “Beautiful World of Mine” an old-time flair as Eliza Gilkyson closes with what should become a standard amongst the protest anthems, “We Are Not Alone”. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Eliza Gilkyson from AMAZON
Please go to the Eliza Gilkyson website for more information
The White Buffalo (from the album On the Widow’s Walk available Spinefarm Records UK) (by Bryant Liggett)
Jake Smith aka The White Buffalo is as baffled about life as the rest of us though he does not let on otherwise. “Problem Solution,” the album opener on his latest release, On the Widows Walk, states that people like to offer up the common advice to ‘follow your heart’ but The White Buffalo knows that most hearts remain ‘confused about everything’, the one thing he is sure of is that ‘life is gonna break your balls’. The cut is a therapeutic opener that moves from strong rock punch to bouncy piano rambles, advising we all should ‘just get through the day,” a theatrical beginning that sets a steady and hefty pace on a strong Roots Rock record of gritty ballads and grittier rockers.
“The Drifter” is a somber, barroom Gospel number calling out to the ‘saints, sinners, winners and losers’, “Come On Shorty” a break-up song about a place we’ve all been, “reaching for the bottom in the bottle and the beer and the blade’, while finding that happy ending at all costs. Both “No History” and “Faster Than Fire” are loaded with drive, throwing it back to when Roots Rock was exploring a post-Punk world. Whether screaming out a rocker or closing the record with the piano ballad in “I Don’t Know A Thing About Love,” The White Buffalo’s words reveal he may not have all the answers but he sure is trying to figure them out, while his melodies accent Jake Smith as he is both tender and tough. On The Widows Walk is a record that bares it all and leaves the fluff behind. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy The White Buffalo from AMAZON
For information, go to The White Buffalo website
Nathan Kalish (from the album Songs for Nobody available on Winter Wildfires Records) (by Brian Rock)
Nathan Kalish has songs for everyone on his tenth release, Songs for Nobody. With a poet’s heart and a Honky-Tonk soul, Nathan Kalish sings Country/Folk anthems for the underdog with a heavy dose of steel guitar. Part Waylon Jennings and part Gordon Lightfoot, he perfectly blends rough edged lyrics with lush musical arrangements. Like a velvet-gloved fist, his music packs a luxurious punch. “Pam & Tim” showcases Kalish’s boot scooting bona-fides from the beginning guitar and drum onslaught to open the song. He recounts the true-life story of Pam who works in a coat factory in the Midwest. ‘Pam, she works, mixing them particles. All those fumes, breathing in chemicals. For fifteen years she’s been coughing up strange colors... That’s just life, working in the USA’. Over a layer of steel guitar, punctuated by organ pulses and Fender guitar riffs, Nathan Kalish documents the struggle of people who risk their lives for their livelihood. A damned if you do, damned if you don’t story told in glorious, Honky-Tonk bravado.
“Standard Time” showcases those same Honky-Tonk chops with a softer edge as he sings a song of yearning for his lover in a different time zone. “Mighty River” adds a heaping helping of Bluegrass as Nathan sings about the freedom of sailing along life’s winding rivers from the Mississippi all the way to that final crossing of the Jordan. On “Don’t Confuse Me,” Kalish alternates balladry with uptempo Bluegrass and trades vocals with Miriam Speyer to convey the ups and downs, give and takes of relationships. The musical and lyric tension builds and finally culminates with the realization that ‘no man is an island. No woman can be her own world’.
Nathan Kalish’s most straightforward Country offering is “Delta Woman.” He somehow came across Johnny Cash’s unfinished lyrics for this song and took it upon himself to complete the song and bring it to life. The result is a touching, twangy celebration of a man’s love for a woman and another man’s love of music that spans across generations. Kalish expands his musical palette on the Gordon Lightfoot inspired ballad, “Kalimotxo”, which captures the joys of that Spanish red wine and cola concoction and that special someone to share it with.
“Independence Day,” is a more standard Folk arrangement that contemplates the downside of freedom. And Nathan Kalish absolutely unleashes on the title track. “Songs for Nobody” is a furious, fast paced Rockabilly rave up that pulls no punches. Commenting about life on the road, he sings, “bottlenecking, rubbernecking, no one can even look around. My soul and me go spread out over the whole U.S. highway... but I’m just passing by playing songs for nobody’.
Like his musical influences, Jennings, Lightfoot and Cash, Nathan Kalish combines poignant insights with punchy rhythms to sing the praises of the forgotten men and women, the blue-collar drones, the flyover country people, the nobodies. So, for all the nobodies out there struggling to get by, Songs for Nobody is for you. (by Brian Rock)
Listen and buy the music of Nathan Kalish from his website
For information, go to the Nathan Kalish website
The Panhandlers (from the album The Panhandlers available on Motel Time Music/The Next Waltz)
Lone Star State native sons, Josh Abbott, John Baumann, William Clark Green, and Cleto Cordero (Flatland Cavalry) become homegrown heroes as The Panhandlers. The self-titled debut, produced by Bruce Robison, The Panhandlers is an album for, about, and sent out with love to Texas, particularly the western hunk of the state calling itself the panhandle. From a cold highway to a warm truck cab, love picks up drug-store cowboy when a “West Texas Girl” pulls to the side of the road and opens her door while a boy becomes a man under the West Texas sun for “Panhandle Slim” and the rhythms roll like a wagon wheels turning under “This Flatland Life”.
The Caprock Escarpment is a West Texas land formation, a natural landmark between the High Plains and the North Central Plains. The Panhandlers give a shout out to the land and its inhabitants, keeping things small town as they plan to go “Caprockin’”, slowing the pace to a sway for the love letter to “Cactus Flower”, and introduce the band as the West Texas landscape passes by outside of the tour bus window in “This is My Life”. The Panhandlers open their debut on a quiet reverie as they leave the land they love with “West Texas in My Eye”, the band following a like-minded soul fallen on tough times with “The Panhandler”.
Listen and buy the music of The Panhandlers from AMAZON
For information, go to The Panhandlers website
The Secret Sisters (from the album Saturn Return available on New West Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Their harmonies are ghostly and lonely, soft and warm, their melodies and music gentle and inviting. They are also willing to toss in a guitar solo that will crash from behind the voices of The Secret Sisters, Laura Rogers and Lydia Slagle. Their fourth release from The Secret Sisters, Saturn Return is a welcoming mix of Folk and breezy Southern California’s Cosmic Country Rock, while dabbling in Soul and Indie Rock, all accentuated with stellar sibling harmonies. “Silver” opens Saturn Return with two soulful voices singing to ‘look upon your mother, and the silver in her hair’ as the tempo amps up, The Secret Sisters singing a song of encouragement, comparing that silver hair to a crown of royalty. The message is aging is in fact and it is okay.
“Late Bloomer” is a cut with heavy piano, “Hand Over My Heart” a love song for both a past and current relationship where The Secret Sisters swear that ‘if I’m breathing you won’t ever be alone’. Along with “Nowhere Baby”, The Secret Sisters have created a delicious vintage vibe that time travels to 1970’s AM Gold on the radio. “Cabin” is a song of abuse and the buried stories that fall on deaf ears; the helpless lyrics reading ‘he didn’t have permission but he had his way. If I tell his secret, they won’t believe me anyway’ are angry, harsh despite a tender vocal delivery, with a grunge-guitar solo matching the anger in the words ‘burn this cabin down’. A handful of hymnals give Saturn Return some Gospel sway when “Tin Can Angel” digs deep into soulful Roots, “Hold You Dear” a beautifully sad ballad, and album closer in “Healer In The Sky”, a hopeful ray of optimism. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of The Secret Sisters from AMAZON
For information, go to The Secret Sisters website
Mustangs of the West (from the album Time available on Blue Elan Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Labeled a country band, purists may claim Mustangs of the West take a few liberties when it comes to their approach to Country music. Who needs labels anyway? Any liberties taken are well played on Time, the recent release from Mustangs of the West, as confident steps are taken down paths that walk away from the Country brand. Country be Mustangs of the West base as they freely stretch their songs into wherever they please as Time finds the all-female, Los Angeles based Country band playing everything from airy folk ballads to Laurel Canyon inspired, harmony heavy Country Rock.
A fiddle drives the album opener in “Long Gone Down the Road,” with its clever word play of ‘I’ll let the dust, settle on the two of us’, it is a song of confidently putting your past behind you and moving on. “I Blame Love” questions human similarities, asking ‘why do people shake their head when heartache happens?’ while the common response of ‘it’s complicated’ comes next, the phrases backed by ambient and airy guitar. “Potter’s Field” is a mid-tempo yearn for the past, “Dancing on the Moon” an aching ballad while a Telecaster guitar intro pushes Mustangs of the West toward that pure Country label for “In the Real West”.
A gritty Blues guitar leads “Do The Math” and makes for a pleasing pairing next to the clean vocals while “Seven Summers,” with its atmospheric pedal steel is a somber nod to a passed friend that close Timewith a heart-tugging weeper. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Mustangs of the West from AMAZON
For information, go to the Mustangs of the West website