It has been seven years since The Milk Carton Kids became a duo and set a goal to keep their music quiet as possible. The hush the pair sought created a center for their songs. Outside of music, The Milk Carton Kids made a big noise, taking audiences prisoner with wit and wisdom as well as chiming guitar strings and harmonic vocals. All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do continues the album release cycle for The Milk Carton Kids, the duo stretching out their sound with a full band, the music edging slightly out of the quiet range the pair chased while maintaining a stillness within the songs. Folk Country Rock ambles into the new album on a thick bass line as TMCK dare love to cross a line with “Big Time”, surf a west coast rhythm in the desert winds of memory coursing through “Younger Years”, tinge the sad story of “I’ve Been Loving You” with a Tex Mex melody, and scientifically suggest “Nothing is Real” with rolling Jazz Pop soundscapes.
The Los Angeles adjacent artist enclave of Eagle Rock, CA is homebase for The Milk Carton Kids. All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do marks the third release on SoCal’s Anti- Records, their fifth album overall, with the pair releasing their first two albums, Retrospective and Prologue, as free downloads from their website. Somber piano notes and the orchestral swell of strings announce “Mourning in America”, theatrical waves of sound crash over “Blindness” and tenderness cradles the reverie of “A Sea of Roses” as a slowly revolving wheel of rhythm turns “Unwinnable War”. TMCK return to quiet string picking and harmonies model for the All the Things That I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do title track. For their tour supporting the release, The Milk Carton Kids will hit the road with a full band for the first time. Within the changes in touring structure and the presentation of songs on All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do, The Milk Carton Kids bring back the word ‘opus’ in album reviews with the sweeping majesty of “One More for the Road”.
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While downsizing has become a ‘thing’, Los Angeles-based Modern Blues trio, The Record Company, are building up, soundtracking upsizing with the pumped-up sonics of their recent release, All of This Life. The band clearly sees that objects looking back from the mirror are exactly as large as they appear, The Record Company vocalist/guitar man Chris Vos stating that ‘after that first album, everything just got amplified. Our lives got crazier and bigger and more complicated in the best possible ways, and our sound and our songwriting just naturally grew alongside that. We’re the same people we always were, but The Record Company isn’t just three guys in a living room anymore’. Guitar notes snakdedance on steroids in album opener “Life to Fix” as The Record Company bid farewell on a slow turning groove with “Goodbye to the Hard Life”, slide and stomp into “Make It Happen”, and strip to barebone acoustics for “I’m Changing”.
Gritty guitar notes weave through All of This Life, laying over skittery rhythms for “Night Games”, slashing chords to cut across the pummeling beat of “I’m Getting Better (And I’m Feeling It Right Now)”, taking on a tender twang for the love letter in “You and Me Now”, and rattling down a Country road for “The Movie Song”. Much like their early days, The Record Company worked on the songs at home, producing themselves and entering Hollywood’s Boulevard studios (Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, The War on Drugs) to push their sonic limits. True to their words, The Record Company own up on “Rollin’ Bone”, stating ‘I was born to kick up dust’, offering a show and tell of the claim with All of This Life.
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The Music Highway connects Tennessee cities Memphis and Nashville along Interstate 40, the road carrying Patrick Sweany out of his Nashville comfort zone to record his recent release, Ancient Noise. The journey began with producer Matt Ross-Spang inviting Patrick Sweany to his new homebase as Sam Phillips Recording. The decision to travel to west Tennessee was an easy one, Patrick knowing that ‘Sam Phillips Recording is the best place on earth to record a rock ‘n’ roll album. I live for going into the sessions with no pre-production rehearsals with the band, we just cut the album on the floor of Studio A song-by-song’. Carpooling from Nashville, Patrick Sweany brought longtime collaborator Ted Pecchio on bass (Doyle Bramhall II, Col. Bruce Hampton) and former Wilco drummer, Ken Coomer. Ancient Noise is guided by the three-piece, the recording benefitting from a hometown advantage in veteran Memphis session player Charles Hodges (Al Green) on organ. Channeling a sound cultivated in the fertile music scene of the 1950/1960’s, a thick bass line leads the way into the vintage Rhythm and Blues shuffle of “Play Around”. Ancient Noise quiets to share its experiential wisdom with “Victory Laps”, rumbles like fast-approaching thunderheads dotted with flash of guitar notes for “Outcast Blues” and tosses down a howling boogie beat for the warnings of “Old Time Ways”.
Born in the Blues, Patrick Sweany has never left the style behind. His songs grow from a Blues point-of-contact morphing his own brand with touches of Country, Soul, and the vintage sound of raw Rock’n’Roll. The realism of the Blues drives the pen of Patrick Sweany as he councils on the loss of love (“Get Along”) and punches quick jabs at modern living with words and a mighty groove (“Up and Down”) as the rhythm rolls like the Mississippi that gave the Blues its life in “No Way No How”. Ancient Noise is the eighth studio release for Patrick Sweany, and he moves from tender, revealing the love in his heart with “Steady” before taking his story deeper with the personal revelations of his soul in “Country Loving”.
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The world is on a fast-track, and in an effort to multi-task releases, The Reckless Electric title their debut, Comeback. The Nashville-based band has rules, and rule number one for The Reckless Electric is ‘if it’s not fun, they don’t do it’, Comeback simplifying the steps to a good time with a rock’n’roll musical backing and commonsense stories. Dual vocals double the punch of the tunes as The Reckless Electric strut out on Rolling Stones riffs to diss a “Local” while they aim their sights higher for nationwide appeal. The album kicks open its doors with the bring-‘em-back goals of title track as Comeback uses a personal hero as a model with “Like Her”, and x’s out what-if’s on the runway “Little Miss Sparkle Pageant” and school days “Straight A Girls”.
The Reckless Electric shout out the truth as the group’s twin guitars maximize three chord potential on Comeback. The band is a side-project for the two women behind the microphones, Mary Bragg and Becky Warren. While both musicians are on solid footing with solo careers, the musical management for success can be a serous undertaking. Mary and Becky takes shots with a smirk as guitar chords play tag in “Ice Cream and Liquor” while “The Say When” takes a seat at a local bar and fate’s sense of humor gets called out in the guitar jangle of “France”. The Reckless Electric entered Welcome to 1979 studio in Nashville, recording Comeback live to tape to capture fun in its natural environment. A distant sound comes in through the rock’n’roll speakers blaring The Reckless Electric as the band follow the trumpet call of “Gravy Train” and toss off a come-on with “Come Around”.
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They are an American band. From their Maine homebase The Mallett Brothers curate the music of the U.S. weaving Tennessee Americana, Cajun accordions, dry western rhythms, campfire Folk, and bar band Blues into their brand of Rock’n’Roll Country on their recent release, Vive L’acadie!. The album title nods to Cajun music, and the origins of the styles in the French-Canadian heritage that influenced the music of The Mallet Brothers. A shouted chorus of ‘vive l’acadie’ gives the track a tagline as the band play the music that fills the Northeast provinces of North America. The Mallet Brothers tell the history of the tale, going back to a tour stop in Fort Kent, Maine when ‘we were driving down the road on Main Street. We turned on the radio and it was playing all these French versions of pop-country songs. It felt like we were in a different world. Later that night, an old man in a bar was yelling "Vive L’Acadie". Turns out, that’s the Acadian battle cry! The Acadians wound up being Cajun, but they're a French, Canadian and Irish mix of people that ended up in the woods up north. Their influence is all over Maine. Our grandfather came from Salmon River, Nova Scotia. If you go back up there, there’s a whole cemetery full of Malletts.’
The title track pays to the music while Vive L’acadie continues the celebration of lifestyles as the stories travel on an accelerated rhythm that catches “Timberline (High Times)” in its undertow, pounds a memory into “Long Black Braid”, chews on a tough groove with “Headed Home”, and harnesses a rabid beat to take a moment to high-five homecooked loving with “Good as It Gets”. The Mallett Brothers formed in 2009, brothers Luke and Will Mallett staying in the center as band members changed, the playing finetuning into the forceful assurance that propels “Onawa” across Vive L’acadie! while small-town parking lot nights get a powerful backbeat on “Gettin’ Back” and truckstop-diary notes get collected with “Few More Dozen Roses”. Mellow Country Folk bears the weight of a town full of “Too Much Trouble” as The Mallett Brothers offer advice on a bad bet with “Losin’ Horses”.
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If the purpose of “Grand Scheme” is be the flame to the listener moth, the plan works. The tune opens Putting on Airs, the recent release from Erin Rae, inviting in with sharp-edged strums, dreamscape vocals and percussion bombs as it wraps organ chords around the melody to trigger addiction to the cut. The combination of Erin Rae’s seductive voice and a musical backing that supports with quiet majesty separates Putting on Airs from a sea of sonic soundalikes. Erin Rae harnesses the elements, a musical airstream raising up “Wild Blue Wind” while thundering rolls of troublesome thoughts tumble with the rhythms of “Bad Mind” and shaky guitar chords are strewn as a red carpet for “Mississippi Queen” as Putting on Airs rides an island pedal steel breeze into the slow spinning title track.
Choosing Wisconsin in the dead of winter, Erin Rae and bandmates recorded Putting on Airs at The Refuge. Run by Cory Chisel and Adriel Denae, the Appleton, WI former Franciscan monastery provided cavernous ceilings that allowed the ephemeral sonics of Erin Rae to rise and fill the space. Sound billows like clouds on “Can’t Cut Loose” as Putting on Airs hushes the playing for the confessions of “Pretend” and sinks into distortion for the memories of “Like the First Time” while Erin Rae sings over revolving rhythmic vibrations rising like summer heat waves in “June Bug” and makes plans for a good life in “Love Like Before”
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The theme for the recent Sam Lewis release, Loversity, takes its cue from the word that Sam created to use as the album title. On Loversity, the title track is a common ground where a worldwide community can join in harmony against a backdrop of Soul horns, a mighty groove and heavenly choir backing vocals. The sound of Loversity is soulful, the songs holding tight to the musical mood as the rhythms glide on Southern Soul (“When Comes the Morning”), 60’s grooves (“Accidental Harmony”), triphammer heartbeat percussion and sliced chords (“One and the Same”) as Sam Lewis steps funky up to the pulpit to declare “Do It” to the undecided.
A small grain of sand can clog the momentum of a new album, and when Sam Lewis’ booking agency closed as his sophomore album (Waiting on You) was raising his star, his inability to tour behind the success had Sam checking out job listings in the local paper, submitting his application to the East Nashville Post Office for work. Before his name tag was filled out, Sam Lewis landed the opening slot for friend Chris Stapleton’s tour behind his Traveller album. Returning after a three-year hiatus, psychedelia colors the vintage Soul of Loversity as “(Some Fall Hard) Living Easy” delivers its message while rhythmic waves create a current for the wistful observations of “Some People” and sharp guitar notes try to pop the sonic bubbles floating across “The Only One”. The natural Soul of his voice walks confidently into Loversity, Sam Lewis wearing the sound like a second skin as he makes promises strolling through “Everything’s Going to Be Different”, lets his mind wander over a subtly smooth rhythm for “Great Ideas” and looks in the mirror for self-assessment backed by the chugging beat of “Little Too Much” as Loversity offers a version of the Loudon Wainwright III tune “Natural Disaster”.
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Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (from the album Downey to Lubbock available from Yep Roc Records)
Claims are made and territory staked out early on in Downey to Lubbock the latest release from Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Dave Alvin is the ‘wild Blues blaster from a sun-burned California town’ bringing his Stratocaster to represent Downey and Jimmie Dale Gilmore ‘the old flatlander from the Great High Plains’ stepping up to the microphone with his harmonica and west Texas wind vocals standing proud for Lubbock. Together, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore are the musical bridge that unites Downey to Lubbock. They open the album with the title track, both Dave and Jimmie Dale sharing writing credits, with a track from Dave Alvin, “Billy the Kid and Geronimo”, celebrating another infamous pair of famous fringe riders. It is nearly one thousand miles from the beaches of California to the sands of Texas, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore paving the way with songs the two have carried with them as treasured companions on their individual solo career paths.
Strutting comes easy on Downey to Lubbock, the tracks mirroring the movement in the title as the album offers a cut from Bluesman Brownie McGhee (“Walk On”) while Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore head back in time to the 1920’s to borrow from Memphis Jug Band with “Stealin’, Stealin’”, tribute lost musical brother Chris Gaffney as they travel into a Tex Mex sway with “The Gardens”, and look to the sky to see ghosts rising in the flames of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee – Plane Wreck at Los Gatos”. The pairing is perfect, Dave Alvin with his baritone stalking the songs as electric roadhouse rhythms and riffs climb from his guitar, Jimmie Dale Gilmore providing depth and warmth to the stories with his coyote Blues voice, acoustic guitar strums, and harmonica. Rolling waves of melody play an ode to “Silverlake” and raw rock’n’roll backs Lloyd Price’s tune “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. Downey to Lubbock quiets to hear “K.C.Moan” and shuffles out a beat for the great San Joaquin valley with John Stewart’s “July, You’re a Woman” as Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore honor musical hero Lightnin’ Hopkins with the Blues masters track “Buddy Brown’s Blues” and remind us about priorities in the current political tsunami with The Youngblood’s hit “Get Together”.
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Kelly Willis (from the album Back Being Blue)
Her intentions were solidly in place when Kelly Willis set to recording her recent release, Back Being Blue. The album plays host to six original cuts from her own pen though the topics do not necessarily point back to the author, Kelly Willis feeling that ‘it’s not an extremely personal record. I wanted to make a fun, interesting record that leans on the influences that first inspired me to make music. I don’t think of it as even being so much about my vocals as an album about vibe. The important thing to me was to take these songs and to get them just right musically. And in my mind, I was thinking of where maybe Skeeter Davis meets Rockpile, or Marshall Crenshaw meets the Louvin Brothers’. Country and western breezes blow the rhythm lazily along for “Freewheeling”, dreamy Folk soundscapes “What the Heart Doesn’t Know” while a determined beat pushes “Only You” forward as a Country sway cradles the choices, good and bad, that live in “Fool’s Paradise”.
It has been eleven years since a solo release as Kelly Willis used her talents as a duo partner with Bruce Robison in performance and recording. Back Being Blue presents Kelly Willis in a single spotlight, Bruce Robison helping out behind the boards as producer. While heartache hovers right on the edge of Back Being Blue, Kelly Willis hears the tunes differently, stating ‘I guess the songs I write can be more sad than I think they are. The lyrics are always sad in country music. I mean, we sometimes wonder why people hire us to do weddings. We’re like, ‘Really? You wanted this? Well, okay!’ But the music, more than ever, I think, is very fun’. The title track takes looks at lost love as Back Being Blue plays a honky tonk jukebox for “Afternoon’s Gone Blind” while Kelly Willis stays on the dance floor to spin with “I’m a Lover (Not a Fighter)” and admits that day-to-day life can weigh you down in “Modern World”.
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The Mother Hips (from the album Chorus)
It has been five years since The Mother Hips delivered an album to the world, ending the cycle with their recent release, Chorus. Co-founder Tim Bluhm (guitar/vocals) acknowledges the span between recordings, stating ‘this album was a long time in the making. It’s our tenth studio album and we wanted to get it right. We needed the songs to represent not only who we are has humans and as artists, but also to represent and acknowledge our amazing fans and supporters. The Mother Hips play inclusive rock’n’roll, their songs sticking to form rather than format, opening Chorus with a nod to Jam-band flavored Southern Rock with “Clean Me Up”, offering a twin-guitar united front in “High Note Hitters”, lending a audio hand to humanity to link us together for “Meet Me on the Shore” as they strut out on ground basking in rock’n’roll sunshine with “It’s Alright”.
Logging twenty-five years into being a band, The Mother Hips met in northern California’s Chico State University in 1990, releasing their first album in 1993 and signing on the a major label while still in college, with the assistance of future-touring mate, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes). Chorus brings the band back after a few hurdles in the years since their last release. Foregoing the plug-in-and-play model The Mother Hips have used on previous recordings, studio time watched the players listening to the music that they had put together. Tim Bluhm recalls that ‘“starting with these really fleshed out studio demos was exciting because it meant we could listen back months later with fresh ears. We could realize that a song might be more effective if we played it a little faster or sang it a little higher. It was like having a second chance to get everything just right’. A sense of the song provides “Hit Me There” with a touch of psychedelic Pop as balls-out boogie drives “Didn’t Pay the Bills”, a bit of Blues Rock propels “I Want Down Hard” along and wishes strike chords that continues to resonate throughout “It’ll Be Gone”. The Mother Hips present a reason for the Chorus album title as the San Francisco, California-based band sing out an anthem with “End of the Chorus”.
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