Richard Thompson (from the album 13 Rivers available on New West Records)
The song tributaries that flow from 13 Rivers, the recent release from Richard Thompson, all move on powerful currents of rhythm. Pounding percussion counts time for “The Rattle Within”, lightly picked notes flicker around the pulse of a demanding beat to underscore the desperation of “No Matter”, guitar strings are the rubbery rhythm percolating in “Bones of Gilead”, and a slow-paced country cadence gracefully escorts “My Rock, My Rope”. The stories of 13 Rivers are translated by the wisdom delivered with a wink that has become a trademark signature for Richard Thompson, the songwriter admitting that ‘I don’t know how the creative process works. I suppose it is some kind of bizarre parallel existence to my own life. I often look at a finished song and wonder what the hell is going on inside me. We sequenced the weird stuff at the front of the record, and the tracks to grind your soul into submission at the back’.
Capturing 13 Rivers on 100% analog at Boulevard Recording Studio, the album is the first self-produced effort from Richard Thompson in over a decade. Using his regular backing band, Michael Jerome (drums, percussion), Taras Prodaniuk (bass), and Bobby Eichorn (guitar), 13 Rivers makes a statement in creativity, exporting the British Folk Rock and natural wit of Richard Thompson into new territory. Clouds of rhythm gather on the edge of “The Storm Won’t Come” as the track opens 13 Rivers carving a dramatic swath. Rock’n’Roll ups the beat to catch the man looking to fit in with “You Can’t Reach Me” as slow Blues turns the wheel to find “The Dog in You” while Richard Thompson puts a rumble underneath “Her Love Was Meant for Me” and walks distinct steps in the rhythm of “Do These Tears Belong to You”.
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The Band of Heathens (from the album A Message from the People Revisited available on BOH Records)
Upping the ante on tribute albums, The Band of Heathens present a track-by-track re-imagining of an entire Ray Charles recording on A Message from the People Revisited. The original release dates back to 1972, Ray Charles utilizing the power of song for then-current issues to inspire, encourage, and burn the flame bright for the cultural changes put in place by the 1960’s. The song arrangements trace lineage back to 1960/70 grooves with the funk of “Every Saturday Night”, the Folk sway in “Abraham, Martin, and John”, the Southern Soul of “Heaven Help Us All”, and the Country beat of “Take Me Home, Country Road”. The back story for A Message from the People Revisited comes from The Band of Heathens, the group telling that ‘in December 2017 we were working as a backing band on a variety of projects for other artists. The sessions were taking place at the Finishing School, a studio built by close friend, producer, and musical collaborator, George Reiff, who tragically succumbed to cancer in May ’17 after a 10-month fight. The studio had been dark since George’s passing. With the blessing of the Reiff family, the lights were turned back on and we went to work for a few weeks. The final four days of session time were blocked off for us to work on something of our own. A few weeks prior to the sessions it was collectively decided that we would use that time to take a shot at recording some of (whatever we could get to) A Message From The People. Working alongside our close friend (and George’s right-hand-man in the studio) Steve Christensen, there was a palpable vibration in the air. It was somber but also very peaceful. Our expectations were set low as we knew that doing any Ray Charles record justice was going to be a real challenge — let alone one with such lush arrangements’.
Staying as true to the mood of the album’s origins, The Band of Heathens put a passionate fire underneath “There’ll Be No Peace Without All Men as One”, take pride for homeland to church with “America the Beautiful”, strum shared disbelief for words getting misread in “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma”, and stir the Blues around for “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong”. A Message from the People Revisited addresses its mail to Washington, D.C. with “Hey Mister” as The Band of Heathens slowly raise the rhythm to match the call to action in “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
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David Olney (from the album This Side or The Other available on Black Hen Records)
Desert winds lead the rhythms of “Border Town” as David Olney becomes the cowboy storyteller delivering foreboding weather forecasts, using words as a pointer showing safe ground further inland. Country rock’n’roll promises “Death Will Not Divide Us”, friendly front porch Folk is the welcome for “Always the Stranger”, and determined strums create a solid backbone for “Stand Tall”. The songs come together in This Side or The Other, the latest release from David Olney. Foregoing an obvious theme, David Olney stages vignettes acted out in the songs of This Side or The Other, hinted at in the storylines while his finger points to the issue directly in “Wall”, David stating that ‘I wanted to explore the idea of walls. What does a wall mean? What does it mean to be an immigrant who comes upon that wall as a wanderer, someone lost and alone?’.
Anne McCue joins David Olney on the title track, a tune she co-wrote along with David and John Hadley. A steady line of characters become flesh and blood in the songs of David Olney, the writer admitting that ‘I’m not comfortable writing about my own dirty laundry. It’s better for me to look at characters and what they might be going through. When I write about the heavy stuff of life, it’s usually while I’m in someone else’s shoes.” Fiddle and guitar lines play tag within “Running from Love” as the story returns This Side or The Other to the border while the album turns a lovelight on late night dreams with the bright melodies and harmony of “Open Your Heart (And Let Me In)”. David Olney walks the line between two worlds in “I Spy” and closes out This Side or the Other borrowing a tune from The Zombies with “She’s Not There”.
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Chad Price (from the album It Might Bleed Forever available on One Week Records)
Sadness can be beautiful. Painful like life, while invoking punch to the heart memories. It Might Bleed Forever, the latest record from Chad Price, is a mournful album waist-deep in heartache. It Might Bleed Forever, released on One Week Records, comes via Joey Capes label, recorded under the premise that you spend one week recording an album. Chad Price is a busy man, releasing a loud-rock album earlier this year with his band A Vulture Wake while continuing to play random shows with All and Drag the River. Melodically It Might Bleed Forever is laid back and stripped down, lyrically nodding to romantic ideals of individualism and emotion, putting an overflow of feeling as the bullseye of each track.
Cuts like “Slate,” with lyrics asking “is it too late, for this warm bed to be a clean slate” hit on a wrecked relationship, where ditching what happened yesterday are necessary for a tomorrow. The track “God” finds Price questioning why bad things happen to good people; “Where was god when we needed him most, he just turned his back on us and left us weak with a heart that barely beats.” It’s a song that dances around the idea of deism, wondering if there is a god that perhaps created it all and walked away letting things play out in whatever way they may. Similar to the work he’s done with Drag the River, it’s an album where subtle country-leaning melodies carry heavy emotion, while critical self-reflection runs high. For the singer in the songs or the person taking center stage within those songs, a heart is on the sleeve and a beer is ready for tears. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Asleep at the Wheel (from the album New Routes available on Bismeaux Records)
Versatility is the bridge that connects new musician members with past players in Asleep at the Wheel as the band approaches the five-decade mark in the forty-eight- year history. New Routes dials in tunes from Moon Mullican (”Seven Nights to Rock”), Johnny Cash (“Big River”), Paolo Nutini (“Pencil Full of Lead”), and two tracks from band fiddler, Katie Shore (“Weary Rambler”, “I Am Blue”). The album showcases the latest additions to Asleep at the Wheel as Avett Brothers Seth and Scott Avett for a Seth tune written to tribute another Austin guitar man with “Willie Got There First”.
New Routes puts frontman Ray Benson in the driver seat for the Austin, Texas collective, a spot he has held since Asleep at the Wheel’s beginning days in Paw Paw, West Virginia. Juggling genres, New Routes offers Country, Jazz, Jump Blues, Rockabilly, Western Swing and Folk as it opens its doors with a bounce, first cut claiming “Jack I’m Mellow” as Asleep at the Wheel share a Cajun groove along with the alcohol in “Pass the Bottle Around” and toss one back in the memory of a local watering hole with Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues”.
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St. Paul and the Broken Bones *from the album Young Sick Camellia available on Records Records)
Young Sick Camellia is mood music. The latest from the Alabama based soul and R & B outfit St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a thirteen-song exploration of slow to mid-tempo grooves; at their essence its all pure gospel and funk ripe for festival stage. Some cuts even fall into the realm of baby-making music. St. Paul & The Broken Bones lives somewhere in the fringe neighborhood of funk and soul that put Motown on the map, while also being a major player of 21st Century bands driving a new funk-dance music scene. Young Sick Camellia delivers an obvious nod to the influential artists that came before, bringing with it the forgotten era of discos more memorable traits; a groove that will fill a dance-floor leaving disco cheesiness in the rear-view.
Groove is everywhere. “GotItBad,” “Apollo,” and “LivWithOutU” feature punchy horns, hand-claps and those splashy bass lines that put this album into the club category. Purists may want the band to hit it harder, although hitting it harder likely would drive people out the door. As is, it’s a fun album, loaded with the riffs and slight psychedelia that nod to underground 70’s funk, partnered with the festival dance vibes you get out of a similar act like Shinyribs provides the soundtrack to your dance-party as much as it’s a gateway to American R & B history. Throwback is okay, especially if you let Paul Janeway guide you to the titles of up-beat American funk and gospel that have shaped the music he and his band are making today.
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Worry Dolls (from the album Go Get Gone available on )
Two guitars held by two redheads came met at an open mic night where the two solo singer/songwriters, Zoe Nicol and Rosie Jones, began steps towards forming Worry Dolls. The meeting happened when the pair were eighteen years old and still based in Liverpool, England. Worry Dolls moved to London to chase their career, couch surfing for a year until their brand of Folk Country built a following. The duo quit their day gigs and flew to Nashville, Tennessee to record their latest (debut) album, Go Get Gone.
Worry Dolls entered an East Nashville studio with producer Neilson Hubbard who put a strong focus on the vocal harmonies. The music for Go Get Gone moves the mood in the stories as somber (“She Don’t Live Here Anymore”), tough-love comfort (“Light Oh Light”), pensive (“Someday Soon”, and assertive (“Tidal Wave”). Worry Dolls have the vocal prowess of true believers, Go Get Gone firmly placing the band in the forefront of Folk, Country, Rock’n’Roll hybrid sounds. Worry Dolls toss out a “Bless Your Heart” kiss-off as they travel “Endless Road” with a restless wander in the rough-hewn rhythm, stamping “Passport” with spit and snarl while goodbye hops aboard a country and western rail-click beat with “Train’s Leaving”.
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Taivi (from the album Rising Tide is available as a self-release)
Taivi's songs offer support in tumultous times on the title track to her recent release, Rising Tide.'
Gentle strums and warm notes embrace inspiring words, Taivi advising to stay true to yourself as the journey towards the light of a better day is detailed on “Rising Tide”. Stirring emotions with her words, Taivi reaches into hearts and minds, joyfully heading down the Hudson river to the sound of a banjo in “The Clearwater”, feeling winter chill, her mind set ion one goal with “Get on Home”, matches a bass thump to a heartbeat for “When I’m with You”, and watches the night sky in “Red Moon Rise. Her vocal touches each tale with grace and poise, backing the stories with Folk music.
The mood for Rising Tide was defined by the world outside, Taivi deciding that ‘we are living in challenging times but this can draw people to what really matters, and lead to a new momentum and energy. The notion of a rising tide captures this for me, movement that can be imperceptible on the surface, but keeps raising us up’. Wandering on the path, Taivi tempts in “Parry Sound’, lets pumping blood find the groove in “Rock My Heart”, and provides a powerful beat, using Huck Finn as a model for freedom in “Keep on Moving”. Armed with guitar, mandolin, and piano, Taivi used different environments around the globe, recording Rising Tide in her Toronto homebase utilizing other Canadian spots in Guelph and Nova Scotia as well as Nashville, Tennessee and Frankfurt, Germany. Tenderness flicks the switch as Taivi beckons in “Turn My Light On” while she spins striking up the band with love as Rising Tide requests “One More Dance”.
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Murder by Death (from the album The Other Shore on Bloodshot Records)
The biggest takeaway from any Murder By Death album is Adam Turla’s voice. It’s heavy and aggressive yet a smoot, robust croon that gets laid out in front of you with consistently like someone rolls out a lush carpet right at your feet; its ever-present boom wrapping around you. The Indiana indie-rock bands 8th full-length release, The Other Shore, finds the band standing firmly where they’ve always been… a place defying classification or even similarities with other bands/ Murder by Death comfortably hold ground within the indie-rock canon.
Adam Turla’s lyrics have always chased grief amongst melodies and instrumentation from slight and minimal to compositionally large and sweeping, the latter due in part to the chunky drive of Sarah Balliets rock and roll cello. Turla’s voice is a perfect vehicle to deliver the grief, angst and self-reflection he writes into his characters. The Other Shore is dominated by stories of leaving and escape that ultimately are a tale of one couple’s woes as they try to escape from what seems to be everywhere.
‘Maybe you’re right, I’m no good. I got a heart made of glass, and a head made of wood. Let me make it clear, when I’m gone, I’m gone. The nights just the night and there’s no coming dawn’. Murder by Death use the line as a great way to open a The Other Shore. “Alas” slowly builds, more instruments come added as the emotional tempo picks up like an argument you know you’ll lose. That’s the general theme of the The Other Shore; the songs kicking off slowly before culminating in a dramatic fashion. That seems to be the Murder by Death way, as they continue to defy labels of alt country or gothic folk and continue to just make good rock records. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Aaron Lee Tasjan (from the album Karma for Cheap available on New West Records)
Many artists can sell their music on a sound while a small group of musicians can train listeners to expect the unexpected. On his third album release, Karma for Cheap, Aaron Lee Tasjan delivers ever-changing soundscapes; percussive breezes blowing “Strange Shadows” as dark rhythms flash with thick guitar riffs while he touches the late-night Tiny Tim cabaret Folk of “Dream Dreamer” with swaths of Country. The songs of Karma for Cheap reflect a treasure chest of musical memories from his past that Aaron Lee Tasjan channels as a muse, viewing Power Pop through a lens of bending guitar leads, swooping and diving around the frothy beat of “The Truth is So Hard to Believe”
Taking Cosmic American music for a tour around a universe of possibilities when Aaron Lee Tasjan smears T-Rex trashy glam Blues over the kaleidoscopic-bright revolving rhythms of late 60’s Beatles in “End of the Day”. The album opens asking “If Not Now When”, namedropping the Karma for Cheap album title as Aaron Lee Tasjan slides into an E.L.O.-born nonchalant strut. Karma for Cheap trips over the downtown rock’n’roll grit beat for “Crawling at Your Feet”, echoes Roy Wood in the tale of “Songbird” and promises “The Rest is Yet to Come” on an acid-dosed Memphis groove. “Heart Slows Down” stretches guitar sonics over its hard-won beat as Aaron Lee Tasjan preaches the daily news, promising better days on the guitar jangle of “Set You Free”.
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