Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers (from the album Bon Ton available on Louisiana Red Hot Records)
Finding the main source of influence right at home, Dwayne Dopsie found his natural pull towards Zydeco music a perfect match for the lessons he learned from his father, Rockin’ Dopsie, Sr. Starting out on washboard as a small child, Dwyane Dopsie moved over to accordion, the same instrument as his dad, a pioneer in the Zydeco style. Bon Tonis the latest release from Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers as they continue a Zydeco lineage, Dwayne feeling that ‘this is my calling, Zydeco music is in my blood and it is my heart and soul’.
Bon Tonfollows its title track onto the dance floor, Dwayne Dopsie the pied piper leading the line into a groove. Opening the album with a phone call urging to put dinner on hold and come down to “Harry’s Creole Bar”, the first cut on Bon Tonhammers out a beat and raises the bar for Zydeco music to head into the future. Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers put a beat underneath a sad tale in “Hey La Bah”, greets a “Louisiana Morning” with a duo of accordion and washboard, puts Blues into the slow groove of “Such a Good Man”, and closes out Bon Tonas he laying out personal needs in “Give Me What I Want”. Zydeco is a part of Dwayne Dopsie’s DNA as he seamlessly adds in touches R&B and Blues to fill out his own sound. Bon Tonlets The Zydeco Hellraisers take center stage as the band instrumentally tribute Andree Jones while Dwyane Dopsie sways side to side on the seductive come-on in “I’m Your Man” and finds a solo spotlight as he becomes a one-man show backing his story of “Chain Gang Worker Blues” with just his accordion.
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Drivin N Cryin (from the album Live the Love Beautiful available on Drivin N Cryin Records)
Three and a half decades in and the Rock’n’Roll band of Drivin N Cryin are not slowing things down nor resting on their (well-deserved) laurels. The latest release from the Atlanta, Georgia-based band, Live the Love Beautiful, finds Drivin N Cryin playful and loose while inviting the listeners on a big rock’n’roll roller coaster ride. “Free Ain’t Free” kicks Live the Love Beautifuloff on a serious lyrical note, frontman/lyricist Kevn Kinney recollecting an American dream tragedy in Spoken Word tones while also reaching Axl Rose-range screeches. The final minute of the opening cut has Rock’n’Roll charge, and Drivin N Cryin also drop a quick reference to the 1972 educational TV special Free to Be…You and Me.
“I Used to Live Around Here” could be something that never made it on to Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic releasewhile “What’s Wrong with Being Happy” walked up the steps from Los Angeles’ late 80’s scene The Paisley Underground. “Spies” is classic garage punk, the tone of the guitar solo reminiscent of Angus Young (AC/DC), the riffs returning in “If I’m Not There I’ll be Here”. “Ian McLagan” is bar-band beautiful, a tear-jerking nod to The Faces keyboardist as “Sometimes I Wish I Didn’t Care” closes the album with a hushed Roots-Americana flavored tune. Live the Love Beautifulis smart Rock album, a personable listen with plenty of jangle and a few quick bursts of punk, living in audio harmony among the ballads and swirling, psychedelic southern guitar.
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Rebecca Rego and the Train Men (from the album Speaking of Witches available as a self-release)
Whispering over an ethereal melody, Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen weave notes into the story as swirling rhythms connect in “Magic”. The track is on the recently released Speaking of Witches, the album armed with answers to move forward with one-world dreams in “Find Something Real” and mark “Time” with wine-drunk diary pages as Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen make a confession on the steadily rising rhythms of “No One Knows Me”.
The songs on Speaking of Witchesare rugged yet hopeful as a jangly guitar riffs flicker over the rhythmic rumble of the title track while “Tiny Boats” plays campfire Folk and “Lost the Light” searches for liberation on the rhythm of piano chords that guide Rebecca Rego as she wraps herself in Trainmen harmonies. Indie Rock structures the sonic roller coaster supporting “Worst Days” and psychedelic guitars roam free in the dreamy soundscape of “Maybe It Was Easy” as Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen pull up a variety a Roots styles to stage the raw rock symphonics of “Fear, Love, and Greed”.
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Dave Alvin (from the album King of California: 25thAnniversary Edition available on Kraft Recordings)
For Dave Alvin, the first memory of King of Californiafocuses on the title track, the musician recalling that ‘this is when I let the song tell me what it sounds like. Ever since then, that’s been my rule. It sounds ridiculous, but it was something I had to learn’. King of Californiacelebrates a 25thanniversary release, adding three tracks, Dave Alvin showing his guitar skills with a self-written instrumental (“Riverbed Rag”) while his vocal is slowly pulled under, falling into the current of Merle Haggard’s “Kern River” as it reverberates over the dark strums of “The Cuckoo”. Besides the lessons Dave Alvin learned about the songs, and hearing the tracks with half a decade between the recording, he found that he was ‘real proud of it twenty-five years later. The whole process was a revelation, to record with everybody in the studio sitting roughly in a circle. Sitting there on the edge of my chair with an acoustic guitar knowing that if I blow this chord we have to start over. And I could use my voice; when I was recording electric my voice couldn’t lead the band. In this situation I could. That allowed a certain openness and freedom I hadn’t experienced before. And for Greg (Leisz), this was his baby, his chance to produce me and get my voice right. His calmness in all of this led to the vibe of the record’.
The recording of King of Californiacame at the end of another vibration when Dave and producer Greg Leisz entered the studio the day after Southern California’s 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Tracks from his work with The Blasters (“Border Radio”, “Little Honey”, “Bus Station”, Barn Burning”) as well as cuts from his previous electric solo work and with X (“4thof July”). A co-write with Rosie Flores (“Goodbye Again”) welcomes the Austin guitarist to the microphone while Syd Straw is the duet partner on “What Am I Worth”. Songs by Memphis Slim (“Mother Earth”) and Tom Russell (“Blue Wing”) sit alongside Dave cuts “Every Night About the Time” and “I Won’t Be Leaving”, the tune whispered as a beautiful harmony between Dave and Hacienda Brothers Chris Gaffney.
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Chuck Mead (from the album Close to Home available on Plowboy Records)
Chuck Mead has hit a home run with his latest release, Close to Home. A fantastic array of genres, all filed under Rock’n’Roll, Close to Homefinds Chuck Mead’s voice hinting at Gospel and Soul, old school R&B, and, of course, the brand of Country attached to his music since days as a member of BR549. Close to Home is delivered as a fun package that will likely land to a spot on some year-end lists. “Big Bear in the Sky” opens Close to Home, a Garage Rock of a cut where the recording roughness and dirty guitar licks are a big part of the tune’s overall charm. “I’m Not the Man for the Job” has a rock-steady groove and “My Baby’s Holding it Down” is ripe for a slow dance with its laid back and cool sway.
“Better Than I Was (When I Wasn’t so Good)” has that BR549 charm while “Daddy Worked the Pole” and “The Man Who Shook the World” are classic Rockers, the latter even having some guitar work that hints at a Southern Rock jam. “Billy Doesn’t Know He’s Bad” is a sing-a-long structured like a child novelty tune while also coming off as a Marty Robbins heartbreaker. The ballad in the closer, “There’s Love Where I Come From”, is catchy and beautiful.
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Keb’ Mo’ (from the album Oklahoma available on Concord Records)
The recent release from Keb’ Mo’, Oklahoma, opens with a memory as “I Remember You”. The story champions a strong woman, the theme fitting in with the dedication of Oklahomafrom Keb’ Mo’ to his mother, Lauvella Cole, who passed away at 91 years of age in 2018. The power of women continues to reverberate with Keb’ Mo’ when he is joined by Rosanne Cash on “Put a Woman in Charge” while survival in the struggle against adversity is passed forward in the story of “This is My Home”.
Produced by Canadian Blues force Colin Linden (solo, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings), Oklahomasticks to Folk traditions in the Blues with the modern-day environmental advice of “Don’t Throw It Away” as the genre is stripped back to just rhythms in “Ridin’ on a Train” and Keb’ Mo’ confronts love head on in the rolling funk of “Cold Outside”. Oklahomatenderly shuts its doors when Keb’ Mo’ duets with his wife Robbie Brooks Moore on “Beautiful Music”.
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Rich Mahan (from the album Hot Chicken Wisdom available on Snortin’ Horse Records)
What makes a wiseman? Wikipedia has no description and Mid-Eastern history has Wise Men as either Magi or Kings. So, technically, the name is up for grabs since neither technology or the bible claim ownership. Rich Mahan picks up the baton, the man with Hot Chicken Wisdom (his latest release), standing on both pulpit and soapbox to deliver roughly three-minute sermon rants addressing our times, suggesting life choices that have worked for him (“Coffee in the Morning”), mojo remedies to cure all ills (“Hot Chicken & an Ice Cold 40”), and a community choral sing-a-long (“Stoned as a Roman Slave”).
Backed by a Country Rock’n’Roll band that sticks a funky street parade shuffle underneath the Hot Chicken Wisdom cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Loose Lucy”, and matters of the heart on the back burner when Rich Mahan turns up the heat on The Bee Gee’s “To Love Somebody” as a smoldering southern rock anthem. Write your truth is the advice Rich Mahan uses when his pen sends a last chance letter in “Open Up Your Heart” and puts his hard work on the map with “Hippie in the City” while he becomes an equal opportunity slacker for “Daydrinking” and “I Smoke Pot”. Summer is here and the beat hits the street as Rich Mahan struts into Hot Chicken Wisdom on opening cut “Boots Off” and issues a warning when seasonal dancing takes you outside with “Tick on My Taint”.
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Reckless Kelly (from the album Bulletproof Live available on No Big Deal Records)
Just about a year ago, Reckless Kelly set out on the road. The gold the band were seeking represented an anniversary for Bulletproof, the 2008 release from Reckless Kelly. Their recent release, Bulletproof Live, puts the studio release on a touring turntable as Reckless Kelly collect performances from a summer 2018 run celebrating the tenth anniversary with a series of west coast shows. Bulletproof Liveallows Reckless Kelly to revisit road-tested tunes, polished night after night as their boots walked a decade worth of stages. Frontman Willy Braun speaks for the band who felt the best way to hear a Reckless Kelly song is from the source, foregoing studio polish when they ‘decided not to do that, and make it a true live album, both for the sake of posterity and out of honesty. What’s the point of a live record otherwise? Live music is best served on the brink of disaster. Sure, there are a few sharp notes and a clunker or two here and there, but that’s what happens in a live setting and what we have here- just six guys that have been playing music together for a long time, a hell of a good road crew, and some truly great crowds. There are no studio tricks and no pitch correction, we wanted it to be real honest and real live-bootleg style’.
Bulletproof Livefires its opening shot with a track from an Idaho show, the Braun brothers returning to their original stomping ground when the Austin, Texas-based Reckless Kelly launch into “Ragged as the Road”. Songs for love lost (“Don’t Say Goodbye”), found (“Love in Her Eyes”), and returned (“You Don’t Have to Stay Forever”) are packed in the back of the bus with the gear on Bulletproof Live. Rock’n’Roll Country soundtracks Reckless Kelly as they wear the bad boy skin while looking for love in “Guy Like Me” as they make a plan to escape with “God Forsaken Town” and take a stance on war with “American Blood”. Bulletproof Liverepresents all the original cuts from the band, adding in a live version of the Merle Haggard (by way of Jimmie Rodgers) cut “California Blues (Blue Yodel #4)” following with Reckless Kelly’s own west coast tune, “How Was California?”.
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Yarn (from the album Lucky 13, Vol. 2 available on Ardsley Music) (by Bryant Liggett)
Yarn is a band on the edge. A genre edge, as Yarn find themselves living on the edge of Jam, the edge of Cow Punk, new Folk and Country. These are genres where Yarn circles the neighborhood, looking for that comfortable place to call home but for the band, the edge is that comfortable place as they pull a chameleon act that should offer up fans of all the aforementioned genres. Or forget the genres and revel in the fact Lucky 13 Vol. 2reveals great playing, great lyrics and an all-around great sound. “I Like It” and “Now is Our Time” open the album with on-the-quiet side ballads, reflective, and “What For” pulls on the album in with a subtle R&B groove.
“Weary” kicks in with an eighteen-second intro of a guitar churning, where the jam disguises the crying-in-your-beer ballad where the narrator is revealing he has ‘been tired and alone ever since you gave me hope’. Like the Jam Band world, the lyrics give way to a big guitar break that unlike the extended riffing, gets reeled back in to the song quickly. A click-clack, chug-a-long train track rhythm drives “All Shines Through,” and “Stranger in This Town,” where the narrator callously brags ‘all the girls they want to know me, guys just to run me out’ and “Hard Times” with its down on the luck lyrics has a great wandering groove. “Lucky Man” is big and bouncy, loaded with Country twang, as Yarn close things out with a drifting lullaby in “Dreamtown.” (by Bryant Liggett)
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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (from the album Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) available on Fantasy Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Turn off the News (Build a Garden),the latest from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real plays it heavy on a Countrified brand of soulful Rhythm and Blues. It is a style that suits Turn off the News (Build a Garden)just fine. Light on the Rock and even lighter on hints of twang where Lukas Nelson’s voice sounds more and more like his father Willie, it is an exploration of Roots music with clean playing and reflective lyrics. “Bad Case” opens Turn off the News (Build a Garden)with slight jangle pop followed by the title track, where Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real state ‘hatred is a symptom of the times, lost in these uneducated blues’. Backed on vocals by Sheryl Crow, “Turn Off the News” provides some of the best suggestion of this year, 2018, or the last three years, with the simple advice of ‘turn off the news and build a garden with me’.
“Save a Little Heartache” kicks off with guitar that is slightly Psychedelic and a hint of Funk giving way to more Rootsy funky riffs in “Lotta Fun” where Lukas Nelson claims ‘life is heaven, life is hell, I don’t trust computers anymore, gonna buy a little weed in the marijuana store’. A sage slice of wisdom from an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree. “Out in LA” is beautiful in its lazy delivery, a song where the narrator laments being ‘out on the road’ while his girl is ‘out on the town’. The charm of Turn off the News (Build a Garden)is its subtle groove, where as a growing rock band, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real provides you with what essentially is a laid-back listen.
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