Daemon Chili (from the album Live in Lowell available as a self-release)
Like any concoction or special family recipe, it is the secret sauces, spices, secret ingredients that make the meal. A thick groove, heavily peppered drum beat, big, fat drops of saxophone, and splashes of guitar licks, heated in warm organ chords and baked under hot neon lights, that is what Daemon Chili serve up on Live in Lowell, their recent release. Shaken and stirred, what separates Deamon Chil from anything else on the menu is the Blues shouts that urge the pot to boil over and the heat rise. Blues on a mission kicks up some Massachusetts dust when Daemon Chili list “Seven Deadly Sins”, sway with “Take Sounding” as the song bids a ballsy goodbye, and feel the sting from “Blood Burning Moon”.
Live in Lowell puts the boys in the band in front of a home town crowd, the audience giving support when Daemon Chili reads from “Wicked Blues”, the ‘bad man’ in the story line counting down to getting his kicks a familiar face. The backbeat demands attention underneath “Gypsy Moon”, strides through “Devil Woman” on a heavy-footed Blues stroll, stirs a funky brew for “That What Love Will Make You Do”, and stretches out the melody on instrumental theatrics for the inspirational message of “Lay Your Burdens Down”. Daemon Chili tell the story of hometown living, and cooking, in “Boott Mill Flavor” as Live in Lowell opens its doors with promising to ‘get things warmed up with a local number’ in “Boston Blues” and wrap up the show, and the live recording, with a hard-pounding song for the mighty mother ocean in “Mercy of the Sea”.
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Bruce Cockburn (from the album Crowing Ignites available on True North Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Bruce Cockburn turned off the vocal microphones for his thirty-fourth album, Crowing Ignites. Similar to his 2005 release Speechless, Crowing Ignites leaves the lyrics behind, omitting any opportunity to get hung up on the words, where the instrumentation has to take a backseat to nothing. History makes it is obvious the man can put words together to pen a great number if not a hundred great songs, one after the other, but let his voice take five and allow Bruce Cockburn to showcase his guitar chops in Crowing Ignites.
“Bardo Rush” into “Easter,” and then “April in Memphis,” Bruce Cockburn lays down experimental and atmospheric groundwork for the coming cuts on Crowing Ignites, “April in Memphis” showcasing his finger-picking ability while flirting with classical and adding ringing chimes. “Blind Willie” hits on a Blues groove, “Seven Daggers” is a haunting, hammer dulcimer inspired cut complete with church bells while “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” is an exercise in experimental Jazz, his guitar work subtle and quiet in a Bill Frisell way, playing ever so quietly under a trumpet.
“Sweetness and Light” is a slow and optimistic swinger and “The Groan” a raw Blues cut with driving, percussive hand claps where the mandolin trades leads with guitar. “Pibroch the Wind in the Valley” hides a Celtic melody and album closer, “Bells of Gethsemane”, wraps the album up on a bell heavy, acoustic-industrial note. The guitar playing on the album is exceptional. A majority of Crowing Ignites finds Bruce Cockburn’s Blues finger-picking delivered with a dose of the avant-garde. A classical record without a symphony, Bruce Cockburn showcases an orchestral ability center stage on Crowing Ignites. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Awkward Family Portraits (from the album Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since available on Holy Smoke Records)
From the mid-1850’s onward, Music Halls were the go-to spot in Britain for new entertainment. Musically, the sounds were proud of their ability to be all things to all people, the players shifting from ballads to barnburners. Awkward Family Portraits offer the same options with the songs on their debut, Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since. For AWP, the styles come from the record collections of band members: Rock’n’Roll, Western Swing, Blues, Americana, and Bluegrass. Starting off with an introduction and explanation of what to expect, Awkward Family Portraits begin with a bounce, opening the album on “AFB Theme”.
Formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2016, Awkward Family Portraits secured a solid standing in the local Roots music scene. Strums and percussive patter are the soundtrack for “Day in the Life of a Lying Man” as Memphis Gerald joins the band for “Kick the Bucket”. AWP offer advice on a rhythmic rumble in “Keep On Keepin’ On”, with scratchy strums for “Can’t Control Cupid”, and in a Country ramble for “Don’t Drink Whiskey, It’s Risky”. Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since sets the mood to crooner smooth for “Way the Wind Blows” as Awkward Family Portraits shuffle out some back-alley Jazz with “Do Yourself a Favor” and follow a bass bump into “Ring, Ring, Angus!”.
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Don Gallardo featuring Lilly Winwood (from the E.P. In the Name of Good Intentions available on JTMMusic)
The latest release from East Nashville’s Don Gallardo finds the musician flirting with a handful of genres without leaning far enough in to commit to any one style or brand. With hints of Gospel, Blues and Rock, In the Name of Good Intentions melodically meanders, a charming soundtrack for a lazy afternoon that’s lyrically direct and void of ambiguity. In the Name of Good Intentions presents Don Gallardo featuring Lilly Winwood, her subtle backing vocals a steady ace for an already winning hand.
A lonely fiddle stands out on album opener, “Rhyders Song (Along the Way)”, the sound, eventually joined by guitar and mandolin, is kept to a whisper. ‘Hold onto these words, and put them in a place, a place that you can save for a rainy day’… it is a storyline of positive affirmation hidden in a ballad. “Shine A Light on Me” has a slight dose of twang within its large band feel, the guitar fills, horn section, and piano adding to its good-time vibe. Don Gallardo takes some liberties with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” turning the bounce of the original version into an almost spoken word Folk reading. “Devil Gonna Come” is a striking gospel cut, the beauty of the melody its simplicity, pushed along by tambourine and hand-claps. Don Gallardo’s vocals ache on “The Wanderer,” a slow E.P. closer dripping with emotion and the message of ‘don’t turn your back on your fellow man’.
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Susan Gibson (from the album The Hard Stuff available on For The Records)
Susan Gibson wrote her truth, following hopes into a song, the cut resonating with The Dixie Chicks who made the decision to include Gibson’s “Wide Open Spaces’ on their fourth, breakthrough, release. Having a hit song provides options though life still shows up no matter where your songs land on the chart. On her recent release, The Hard Stuff, Susan Gibson points fingers on a rambunctious beat in “Lookin’ for a Fight” as the album finds “Wildflowers in the Weeds” when a woman fearlessly peers into a forty-year past and mountain music shines down on a morning-table-memories in “8 x 10”.
Susan Gibson wanted to make The Hard Stuff a musical counterpoint to her solo live performances, her request to producer Andre Moran (Belle Sounds) was ‘no limits’. The soundscapes shift around the words, tender acoustic notes flickering to match the love flutters of “Diagnostic Heart” while “The Big Game” stretches out on a Jazz-jam of rhythms and an assured beat backs the weather reporting personal turbulence in “Hurricane”. Susan Gibson has a number stuck in her head as she loops seven reasons on repeat when The Hard Stuff title track slinks in on funky horn pops as a sweet groove cruises underneath the rapid flow of lyrics.
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Michaela Anne (from the album Desert Dove available on Yep Roc Records)
The Country music of Michaela Anne has west coast jangle as she randomly picks a California town from a map in “Run Away with Me”, hot breaths of dusty air swirling around the secrets of “One Heart”, and an easy sway backing the story of a woman fulfilling the needs of the Old West in the Desert Dove title track on the recent release. Michaela Anne scatters Southwest sawdust for “Two Fools” as the tune plays a sad honky tonk song while Desert Dove shares the story of a modern family living life as they see it in “By Our Design” and chooses classic Country to be the foundation for battle lines drawn in “If I Wanted Your Opinion”.
Produced jointly by Sam Outlaw and Kelly Winrich (Delta Spirit), and backed by a band that includes west coast guitar wizard Brian Whelan, Desert Dove embraces emotion. Catching feelings live in her songs, Michaela Anne peeks over the edge in “Somebody New”, finds a welcome home on the ragged highway rhythms of “Child of the Wind”, and wistfully whispers wishes to a friend in “Be Easy”. Lush strings and a robust beat cradle Michael Anne as she spins and sways through the Cosmic Country of “Tattered, Torn, and Blue (and Crazy)”.
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Old Crow Medicine Show (from the album Live at the Ryman available on Columbia Records)
Old Crow Medicine Show have become known for their stage show. Part DIY-Punk and part honky-tonk dance party, OCMS are a band that give 100% whether in the studio or on-stage, bucking the trend of (some) modern-day string bands to stay middle-of-the-road, the Bluegrass equivalent of The Carpenters. AM gold Old Crow Medicine Show are not, and their latest release, Live at the Ryman, showcases eleven cuts that color outside the lines from the band’s ever-expanding repertoire.
‘Drink the corn liquor let the cocaine be’ is an OCMS public service announcement that centers “Tell It to Me,” the tracking kicking out of the gate on Live at the Ryman with the blast of “Shout Mountain Music” following, the story loaded with an anthemic-dynamite charge. “Take ‘em Away” hurts, a song about a single dad who has ‘got nine children, nothing in the pan’. The slow songs are somber and serious, beautiful and believable. Old Crow Medicine Show go in an opposite direction with Roots rocker “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” as well as an animated cover of “Sixteen Tons”. Margo Price is Classic Country solid when she joins the band on “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man”. The obligatory ‘hit’, “Wagon Wheel”, has the performance of its already highly rate stock raised from the company it keeps on the track listing of Live at the Ryman. People will debate whether their busking days have worn out a welcome though that sound is an integral part of the OCMS package, and it is OK to admit to it’s guilty-pleasure catchiness. Old Crow Medicine Show close out Live at the Ryman by turning the mother church of Country music into a revival tent with the big ending of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, the performance loaded with a gospel feel and big vocals. The raw delivery, infectious energy and, most importantly, lack of fluff is why OCMS remain one of the better string bands of the last two decades. The Ryman has become the band’s second home, making it the perfect venue to showcase their live show.
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The Lonesome Billies (from the album Right on Time available on Stay Lonesome Records)
There is a psychedelic guitar haze surrounding the Country of The Lonesome Billies when they offer explanations of their ways in “Just Trying to Live” while they make a open air wish list for “Away from My Big City Dreams”. The honky tonk confessions, proud admissions of guilt, and tongue-in-cheek outlaw anthems are collected in Right on Time, the recent release from The Lonesome Billies. The beat is a seductive call as much as the slacker lifestyle The Lonesome Billies champion for “Good Ol’ Complacency” as the four walls around them become a coffin in “Pine Box” as the band pulls “Five Dollar Bill” out of a steadily percolating jangle and own their skin in “Guys Like Us”.
Band history shows The Lonesome Billies together from ‘seeds to tumbleweeds’, the four lifelong friends growing up, and forming, the group in Hazel Dell, Washington. Right on Time plays the sound of a Country band while the bite and smirks in the lyrics trace bloodlines to Rock’n’Roll. The Lonesome Billies squeeze one more round out of the weekend with “Sunday Night Ramblin’ Man” and slow the pace to introduce “Good Example of a Bad Example” as Right On Time recalls the life fading in the read view mirror for “Tall Cotton”.
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King of Birds (from the album Eve of Destruction available on Valuable Recordings Ltd)
From a distance the band approaches, the call from King of Birds rising with the rhythm, the drumbeat a trance underneath the salvation shout that erupts in “Down on the Corner”, the opening cut on the recently released Eve of Destruction. Country sways the melody as acoustic notes flicker like starlight around “One Horse Town” while softly plucked guitar notes are the entry for the chamber music moods of “Hang Me Out to Dry”. Eve of Destruction kicks up honky tonk sawdust with “Peace of Mind” as King of Birds cut through “Harvest Time” with electric guitar slashes.
Brothers Charlie and Stirling Gorman began writing songs together in 2014 at their home in the village of Elderslie, Scotland, about fourteen miles west of Glasgow. Following up the success of singles “I Hope We Don’t Fall in Love” and “Hard Times for a Good Man”, King of Birds included the cuts with a bigger batch of songs as Eve of Destruction. An effervescent bounce pushes into “Tomorrow” on guitar jangle and bubbly harmonies as stark Folk matches the somber storyline of “Tell Me If You See Her” while King of Birds recall lost lineage on the majestic march of “When We Were Kings”.
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Andrew Combs (from the album Ideal Man available on New West Records)
Andrew Combs let his muse pick up the paintbrush rather than his trusty pen when he and his wife were waiting for the birth of their daughter in 2017. Painting taught the musician a new process as he layered and scraped paint from canvas. For his recent release, Ideal Man, he made use of the technique for his songwriting, staring with an emotion rather than a concept, the words and music the method of coloring the tale, framing the mood. Notes are dabbled with an impressionist’s brush when Andrew Combs speaks of floating “Like a Feather” on an ever-expanding melody as instrumentation is added seamlessly to create a bigger picture. Light notes are picked from guitar and piano to lay a path for “Golden” as Ideal Man strays down a nightmarish soundscape of distorted chords and sharp-angled beats with “Dry Eyes” while Andrew Combs drifts on dreamily echoed sonics for the lessons learned from “The Stone” and lets a last drink blur the dangers of “Firestarter”.
Ideal Man was recorded live in producer Sam Cohen’s Brooklyn, New York studio, the sound captured fresh, clearly showing dark clouds in the beat that overshadow the jangle and Pop in “Born Without a Clue” as Andrew Combs follows a heartbeat drum textured with moody Jazz tones playing “Hide and Seek”. Andrews Combs wears different skin in the title track as its rhythms rumble underneath like subway trains while Ideal Man dances to an apocalyptic tune on a skittery beat for “Save Somebody Else” and ponders mortality on the sway of “The Shipwreck Man”.
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