Rainbow Girls (from the album Give the People What They Want available as a self-release)
The sonics of Give the People What They Want are an emotive counterpart to the liquid harmonies of Rainbow Girls and the sturdy structures created by guitar and bass lines on the San Francisco Bay Area trio’s recent release. The audio echoes that surround Rainbow Girls cover of Gillian Welch’s “Elvis Presley Blues” transport the threesome to an underground subway tunnel, busking in the waves magical music born of mass transit lines. Give the People What They Want keeps it in the (Welch/Rawlings) family with a cover of Dave Rawlings Machine’s “Ruby”, Rainbow Girls matching the three-part CSN’s harmonies on their version of “Helplessly Hoping” from the Crosby, Stills, and Nash debut.
Originally from Santa Barbara, California before heading to the countryside north of San Francisco, Rainbow Girls transform the songs of other artists, coloring the cuts they choose with brand band brushes as each member takes a stand with a verse on Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain Gonna Fall” (featuring John Craigie and Ben Morrison). Give the People What They Want revisits hits from Nat King Cole (”L-O-V-E”), opening the doors of the album with “Down Home Girl” (Old Crow Medicine Show, The Rolling Stones, Alvin Robinson) as Rainbow Girls join a roster of artists (The Mill Brothers, Sam Cooke, k.d. Lang) to cover “Smoke Rings”, re-tell John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” and spin on scratchy electric chords for Patsy Cline’s “Tennessee Waltz”.
Listen and buy the music of Rainbow Girls from AMAZON
The Walker Roaders (from the album The Walker Roaders available on Ginger Man/Beverly Martel)
The Celtic Punk market has been cornered for years by the likes of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, with The Pogues reigning over all comers to the crown since forming Pogue Mahone in 1982. The former two are still active, the latter in The Pogues, after a handful of years of successful reunion shows though have collectively been on the backburner after the death of Philip Chevron and the always questionable state of Shane MacGowan. The Pogues laid the groundwork for this musical style that is still respected and revered, currently played out by The Walker Roaders on their self-titled debut, which features Ted Hutt of Flogging Molly, Marc Orrell of Dropkick Murphy’s, and James Fearnley, a founding member and man of the accordion from The Pogues. The Walker Roaders is a sound straight out of The Pogues catalog, accordion heavy, bouncy with some ballads but always ready for an anthemic singalong.
“Lord Randall’s Bastard Son” is a rowdy opener complete with back-ground hollers and a big chorus, and that bounce continues with the mandolin lead that kicks off “Seo Yun”. “The Blackbird Only Knows One Song” is a tender Irish love ballad and “Here Comes the Ice” has a touch of American cow-punk. The Pogues were onto something with the advent of this style of music, a style that still flies under the radar, save for the people that have dug it from the get-go. While The Walker Roaders aren’t as punky as some of the current contemporaries, there’s more than enough melody and plenty of punch to make this a keeper in every Celtic Punk collection.
Listen and buy the music of The Walker Roaders from AMAZON
Nels Andrews (from the album Pigeon and the Crow available as a self-release)
Words are important to Nels Andrews, his songs chapters to each album’s book from his library of releases. Pigeon and the Crow is the latest edition to join in the output of Nels Andrews, the music swaying to a trance as Nels encourages the target of his words to ‘loosen your hips like a Bollywood queen’ as they carve out a story in “Scrimshaw”, the tale taking a seductive turn as it opts for the warmth of a seaside motel room ‘where we can be strangers” to shelter from the fifty degree winter temps in Santa Cruz, California. Numbers count down to the fall of the characters of “Welterweight”, gentle acoustics comforting the losses and championing the wins as a hefty rhythm sets the stage for “Table in the Kitchen” and the beat collects thick drops of bass guitar and a myriad of notes to make “Holy Water”.
Produced by Irish flutist Nuala Kennedy, the framework for Pigeon and the Crow was put together over a three-day stint in Los Angeles’ Whispering Pine Studios. A rich history preceded the sessions for Pigeon and the Crow, Nels Andrews spending the nights of the recordings sleeping on the floor of the tracking room to soak up the years of creativity embedded in a studio that was originally built for Sam Cooke in the 1960s before becoming a Funk/Soul palace in the 1970’s until the owner found religion in the 1980’s, the space later rehabilitated by Indie rock outfit Lord Huron. Handclaps keep time as Nels Andrews pries the story from “Lion’s Jaws”, plucks a heartbeat from the bass line and follows the flight of flute notes to find direction for “Memory Compass”. Tender acoustic guitar notes remain steadfast as distant drumbeats tap out the title tracks while Pigeon and the Crow heads “South of San Gregorio” on a percussive rumble and Nels Andrews sways on island rhythms riding “Embassy to the Airport”.
Listen and buy the music of Nels Andrews from AMAZON
Beth Bombara (from the album Evergreen available on Lemp Electric)
It wasn’t a quest, just a cabin named Evergreen. Beth Bombara needed to clear her head and environment change from her formative years in Michigan and her adopted home of St. Louis, Missouri. Beth headed west, coming to rest in the Rocky Mountains. The songs she collected have a home under an album title that nods to the point of their creation with Evergreen, Beth Bombara recalling that ‘I wasn’t writing a new record -- at least, I didn’t think I was at the time but I’m starting to realize, that’s just what I do. I write songs. You know how trees exhale oxygen? They don’t think too hard about oxygen...it’s just a byproduct of their existence. Well, songs are a byproduct of my existence. I’ve already exhaled these songs, but maybe they’re a needed breath for someone else. And the idea that even one other person needs them is what fulfills me’
Her delivery has a laid back calm as the lead guitar runs rampant through “Growing Wings”, Beth Bombara letting the smooth of her voice temper the finger pointing and funk of “Good News” while the groove slithers, twisting and turning underneath “Criminal Tongue” and she admits “I’m Only Alone When I Cry” over a blend of Country and Indie Americana. Heading into the studio with her touring band, adding John Calvin Abney on keyboards (and production), Beth Bombara took a week to record Evergreen, sharing that ‘The five of us just walked in to the studio, set up in one live room, and hammered out the whole album in less than a week. It was the most fun I’ve ever had making a record. Everyone’s doing what they do...it just felt effortless’. The guitar riffs run circles around the revolving rhythms in the rock’n’roll rumble of “Upside Down” as Evergreen asks “Does It Echo” on dreamscape sonics and strums Country into “Tenderhearted”. Beth Bombara pounds out a request for the peace granted from her getaway cabin in the title track and hammers out a political message on a church basement piano for closing cut “All Good Things”.
Listen and buy the music of Beth Bombara from AMAZON
Jesse Malin (from the album Sunset Kids available on Wicked Cool Records)
Jesse Malin is traveling down a road familiar to the songwriters that got their starts in punk rock and are currently exploring a broader world of roots rock. It is a big musical world and while there is plenty of room for angst, there is plenty of room for introspection and observation, bigger bands and different chords. Jesse Malin’s latest release in Sunset Kids finds the NYC-based songwriter slowing things down, channeling Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and Midwest Indie jangle while keeping low-key gritty Lower East Side New York vibe.
“Meet Me at The End of the World Again” kicks off the record from a New York street corner, with Jesse Malin ‘up on 24thstreet, looking at a life’, while doing his Lou Reed, ‘more talk, less sing’ best. Lucinda Williams hangs out in the background providing faint, backing vocals for “Room 13” as the tempo picks up for “Chemical Heart.” Jesse Malin pours out his heart, covering moods from Jake Lamotta to Bernie Taupin as he switches the audio remote control. Atmospheric pedal steel shadows “Promises” giving the feel of a Southern Rock ballad and the mid-tempo “Shining Down” treads into Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) territory. “Shane” is a beautiful tear-jerking nod to Mr. Macgowan, a tale of getting the man to his 60thbirthday celebration while also referencing players and songs from the first wave of punk. The Sunset Kids closer in “My Little Life” is the familiar tale of your ‘little town dragging you down’ while you’re wishing you weren’t you.
Jesse Malin is musically all over the place through fourteen songs, from zippy New Wave to slowed down Folk. Sunset Kids is quite a collection that continues to reveal Jesse Malin’s great ability to reference your own record collection while digging into your past.
Listen and buy the music of Jesse Malin from AMAZON
Ward Hayden & The Outliers (from the E.P. Can’t Judge a Book available as a self-release)
Ward Hayden shows how to play the game, slowing an Elvis anthem to smooth as he deals a version of “Viva Las Vegas” backed by a cool groove from The Outliers on the recent E.P. release, Can’t Judge a Book. Making New England a safe haven for honky tonk, Boston, Massachusetts-based Ward Hayden & The Outliers roll out a new band name debut on seven tracks, filling the air with the sound of a rock’n’roll country band and a born-for-it crooner on vocals with Can’t Judge a Book. A country sway takes memories back to “Hackensack”, Ward Hayden & The Outliers changing the style address to a destination further south on the cover of a Fountains of Wayne tune while they cruise a highway west with road songs rhythm propelling Can’t Judge a Book along in a version of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land”.
The band felt the times called for a change when Ward Hayden & The Outliers replaced their former band name (Girls, Guns, & Glory) with a new moniker, and a collection of covers in Can’t Judge a Book. The E.P. includes an original cut, namechecking the album title in song lyrics with Beatlesque guitar riffs and a rock’n’roll backbeat for “Naturally Crazy”. Taking their new name from their front man and far-from-Country location in the Northeast U.S., Ward Hayden & The Outliers feel that both geographically and style-wise, they are a ‘band out of time and place’. A guitar jangle provides a brightness to the melody as the story turns sad in “Can’t Stop a Train” while Ward Hayden & The Outliers borrow a tune from Johnny Cash in “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” and keep the cry alive as they cover Nick Lowe (by way of Elvis Costello and the Attractions) with “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love, and Understanding”.
Listen and buy the music of Ward Hayden & The Outliers from AMAZON
Rob Laufer (from the album The Floating World available on 1191186 Records)
Time in the studio for Rob Laufer has been primarily as a working musician, filling the role of producer, songwriter, and player for projects with Frank Black (The Pixies), Fiona Apple, Cheap Trick, Shawn Colvin, and Melissa Ferrick as well as having his music appear in film and television placements. His recent release, The Floating World, puts Rob Laufer on the album cover as artist, the writing of the songs coming post-Tom Petty passing, the death a catalyst when listening to the TP catalog and Rob realizing he needed to ‘just write the goddamn song’.
A brightness beams from The Floating World, the songs of Rob Laufer bursts of Rock’n’Roll Pop sunshine with “Highway Machine” and its flurry of jangle while “Fence” is built on rigid rhythms and “Hippie Love” channels vintage Heartbreakers grooves. Rolling chords cascade, opening The Floating World with “Avalanche” as the music tangles and twirls underneath “Space and Time” while Rob Laufer doses his Americana with Cosmic Country in “As Long As You Belong”, lets the title track drift on a current of notes and strums, beating a hyperactive groove into “Bolt of Blue” as sonics flash and pop.
Listen and buy the music of Rob Laufer from AMAZON
Jason Erie (from the E.P. The Art of Letting Go available on Eric St. Music)
Chiming guitars are an echo of classic times when Jason Erie plugs in and turns up tunes that take a cue from Folk, Country, and Rock song structure while his latest E.P. release, The Art of Letting Go, carves a spot for Rock’n’Roll Americana. Darkness rises up over “Black Lung” as a drum pound beckons on a monotone beat, guitar riffs sparking with electricity as otherworldly harmonies wrap like tendrils of fog around the vocal growl of Jason Erie. Acoustic guitar notes gather for the opening of The Art of Letting Go, the fractured plucks quieting for a story of suburbia, Jason Erie making the hometown souls passing him by the lead characters in “Talking to Chairs” while he counts to three before staging the title track with defeated times and deflated circus tents.
The dark of the night and the ‘smell of cocaine’ rise in heat waves when “Lorelai” makes her way through The Art of Letting Go as Jason Erie follows two searchers seeking glory and getting encouragement from a Rock’n’Roll beat soundtrack. Raised in northern New Jersey, Jason Erie tenderly picks out guitar notes to dig into the sad story of “Gold Rush” and has “Conversations with a Bottle” backed by zigzagging guitar licks and frenetic fiddle runs.
Listen and buy the music of Jason Erie from AMAZON
Tyler Childers (from the album Country Squire on Hickman Holler Records/TCA Records)
Tyler Childers is one of the growing number of musicians doing what he can to turn Modern Country on its heels so it can crawl back to the Pop music world it belongs. While his brand of Country is not new, Tyler Childers leads a pack of players here to remind casual music consumers that the world of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard is not forgotten. Country Squirewalks a fine line between Hank Williams classic country and Bill Monroe’s Kentucky bluegrass, a dance hall where high and lonesome songs party with crying in your beer music.
The title track opens with a quick dose of Telecaster chicken-pickin’ on a blue-collar nod to living off the land, singing in the bars at night, and building a home. “Bus Route” has mandolin picking and a bouncy dose of mouth harp and “Gemini” has that Texas party music feel mastered by Robert Earl Keen, complete with ‘road goes on forever and the party that never ends’ references.
“Peace of Mind” is a heartbreaker, a blue-collar reflection on family life, “All Your’n” reveals some R&B chops while “Matthew” should make people do a well-deserved internet search for Clarence White. Tyler Childers words show he has been around the block and took notes, all while delivering masterful melodies. The lyrics on Country Squire are a gut-punch, Tyler Childers’ songs loaded with solid instrumentation where every fiddle, mandolin and pedal steel has a well-deserved place.
Listen and buy the music of Tyler Childers from AMAZON
Delbert McClinton and Self-Made Men + Dana (from the album Tall, Dark, and Handsome available on Hot Shot Records)
Beginning with his last release backed by Self-Made Men, Prick of the Litter, Delbert swaggered into the center spotlight, fronting the band with smooth Blues and a crafted cool. Delbert McClinton and Self-Made Men stay true to the sound with the recent release, Tall, Dark, and Handsome, putting a bounce to the beat for “No Chicken on the Bone” and slinking in with a wish and a plan for “Let’s Get Down Like We Used To” as Delbert McClinton struts in with Self Made Men + Dana offering some shake, rattle, and roll rhythm to the road story cruising “If I Hock My Guitar”.
A triple threat gives Tall, Dark, and Handsome heft, blending the songwriting of Delbert McClinton with the energy of his live performance and backing both with the power of his touring band. Self-Made Men are a big band in the true sense; guitar, solid rhythm section, horns, keyboards, wrapping around the songs of Tall, Dark, and Handsome in dark noir moods (“Temporarily Insane”), Tex Mex tangos (“Gone to Mexico”), and street parade second line swank (“A Fool Like Me”). Delbert McClinton wears the skin of seductive crooner (“Ruby & Jules”) and tosses in his love cards on a Blue stomp (“Down in the Mouth”). The swinging saunter and Blues bluster of Tall, Dark, and Handsome is a perfect fit for the delivery and persona that Delbert McClinton has cultivated. Walking into the album on a high step, Delbert McClinton and Self-Made Men boogie to the band on stage for album opener “Mr. Smith” and put a warning label on “Lulu” as Tall, Dark, and Handsome turns the lights low for the love pouring from the Jazz-inflected mood of “Any Other Way”.
Listen and buy the music of Delbert McClinton and Self-Made Men from AMAZON