Michelle Malone (from the album Slings & Arrows)
Voice and guitar get a co-billing on Slings & Arrows, the recent release from Michelle Malone. The Atlanta, Georgia-based artist proudly wears her Southern home as a badge of honor, crediting Slings & Arrows as a ‘Georgia album’, Michelle explain that ‘I take a lot of pride in Georgia and the importance that Georgia music has played not only in my music but also in American music in general. Georgians such as Little Richard, James Brown, Ray Charles all laid the ground work. Without them, we would never have had Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones…there would be no rock’n’roll. Blues, Soul, and Rock’n’Roll all whisper into Michelle Malone’s ear as she translates the sounds into her own musical language on Slings & Arrows.
Sweet southern Soul gets remade on Slings & Arrows as Michelle Malone welcomes Shawn Mullins into the album when the pair partner on Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” as she shares co-writes on the album with fellow Georgian Randall Bramblett (“Fox and the Hound”) and singer/songwriter Eliot Bronson (“The Flame”, “Sugar on My Tongue”). A rattle of percussion introduces the advice to “Love Yourself” into Slings & Arrows as Michelle Malone scratches out Folk Blues with “Beast’s Boogie” and puts the future on notice with “Just Getting Started”.
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Mark Erelli (from the album Mix Tape)
Before being used as arrows hitting send, fingers were touching buttons to receive. Mark Erelli grew up between the musical worlds of vinyl and CD, making him a member in good standing of the cassette generation. Mark recalls the times when messages were delivered by music, songs conveying the words and sentiments that never seemed to surface in conversation. For his latest studio recording, Mark Erelli delivers album number eleven in his catalog as a collection of covers with Mixtape. The album is an extension of a yearly gathering of musical friends and fans at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the Under the Covers shows with Mark Erelli along with musicians such as Lori McKenna and Rose Cousins offering versions of cherished songs from other pens.
As an audio gateway drug, Mark Erelli credits the Grateful Dead, citing the band as a personal favorite that he followed back to other bands and genres such as Blues, Folk, Bluegrass, and Soul through their concert tapes. Mixtape opens with a cover of The Dead’s “Brokedown Palace”, the track joining cuts from artists ranging over the past fifty years of music from Roy Orbison (“Crying”) and Solomon Burke (“Don’t Give Up on Me”) to Arcade Fire (“My Body is a Cage”) and Neko Case (“Deep Red Bells”). The tune segue-ways on Mixtape dig deep into catalogs, unearthing gems like “Tony” from Patty Griffin and “I Feel So Good” from Richard Thompson as the album reworks movie soundtracks such as Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)”. Mark Erelli slows the frenetic pace of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”, re-telling the tale over an arrangement as sparse as the empty streets he cruises while Mixtape turns into “Ophelia” wonder along with The Band’s cut just where the mysterious lady has gone.
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Dave Goddess Group (from the E.P. Last of the West Side Cowboys)
New York City Rock’n’Roll has no need to grow up. The rawness and the grit are perfect for city streets that match the characters in the songs and the sharp edges of the melody, the real life that walks through the stories. Dave Goddess Group are torchbearers for the three-chords-and-the-truth gold ring that NYC bands try to grab as they spin through the local music scene. For more than a decade, Dave Goddess Group have taken their music off the island of Manhattan, beyond Brooklyn and the boroughs, building a fallowing one true believer at a time. Last of the West Side Cowboys, the latest release from Dave Goddess Group, punches with a beat ready for a street fight. The title track opens the E.P. using a back story seen through the eyes of George Hayde, the final train rider…. the “Last of the West Side Cowboys”. Dave Goddess provides the history of a time ‘from 1846 to 1941, an above ground train used to take freight up and down 10th Avenue in Manhattan. I live on that street today. Anyway, it was dangerous back then, with the train routinely hitting pedestrians. So New York City hired cowboys, real ones, who rode their horses in front of the trains, swinging lanterns and clearing the tracks. Eventually New York built what is now The Highline, an elevated platform to get the trains off the streets and the West Side Cowboys were out of work’.
A whole lot of real pens the tales in Last of the West Side Cowboys, a “Better Man” materializing in memories that swirl like the Beatles-esque melodies that swim through the song as the rhythms slow like the drugs coursing through veins with “Tears in Rain”. Dave Goddess Group travel “Providence Road” and stumble through the tangled tale in “Paradise Lost” while Last of the West Side Cowboys goes back to political musicians of the past to ask John and Joe (Strummer) about the chaos of the moment in “Roll Over John Lennon”.
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Matthews Southern Comfort (from the album Like a Radio)
Over a long career, Iain Matthews has changed the delivery method for his music, keeping the Roots touch in his tracks, the warm Folk Rock, and a blend of electric and acoustic instruments. A founding member of Fairport Convention, and bandmate for their first three albums, Iain Matthews departed the group to form Matthews Southern Comfort and Plainsong in the 1970’s. Bands and solo work offered the words and music of Iain Matthews as frequent album releases, and on his recent album, Like a Radio, Iain Matthews goes to his early 1970’s group concept, Matthews Southern Comfort, to back his songs. Feeling that the short-lived band never got the sound Iain Matthews was hearing, he uses Like a Radio to complete the journey of Matthews Southern Comfort.
From a homebase in the Netherlands, Matthews Southern Comfort dip a memory in psychedelic west coast Folk Rock as “Chasing Rainbows” steps into the California sunshine. Delicate guitar notes announce “The Thought Police” to open Like a Radio as a sad Country tale says goodbye in “Right as Rain”, a sharp-edged melody guides “Crystals on the Glass”, and “Darcy Farrow” glides in on melancholy piano rambles. An all Dutch lineup backs Iain for the new incarnation of Matthews Southern Comfort as they wander down a percussive trail into “The Age of Isolation”, channel an island breeze for the rhythms of “Phoenix Rising” and walk through a dreamy shuffle with “Jive Pajamas” while Like a Radio dials Jazz into the title track.
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Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager (from the album Rough Cut available on Alligator Records)
The Pacific Northwest is home to Bluesmen Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager. The pair began playing together in 2003, with Alan Hager and his guitar coming full-time into a band led by Curtis Salgado in 2015. Rough Cut stages the soulful vocals and harmonica of Curtis Salgado alongside Alan Hager’s guitar work as the pair team up to record and produce the Alligator Records release. The music of Rough Cut divides time up between originals from Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager and versions of cuts by Big Bill Broonzy (“I Want You by My Side”), Muddy Waters (“I Can’t Be Satisfied”), Elmore James (“You Got to Move”), Sonny Boy Williamson (“Too Young to Die”), and traditional Blues standards (“Morning Train”).
Beginning a career in Blues while in his twenties, Curtis Salgado made a name in the Northwest music scene with The Nighthawks prior to becoming co-leader of The Robert Cray Band. While an early student of the Blues, after graduating from Berklee School of Music, where he studied under Pat Metheny, Alan Hager found a seat in Classical music before moving back to the Northwest. Curtis Salgado felt that Alan Hager is ‘the best player in the business, unlike anybody else. One reason I made this record was to show him off’. Rough Cut showcases the playing of both Bluesmen, matching their original tracks with Blues history as Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager save their prayers for a best friend with “I Want My Dog to Live Longer (The Greatest Wish)”. Opening the album with slow churning Blues, Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager declare that “I Will Not Surrender” and barrel roll the Blues to put a groove underneath Curtis as he proudly states his future with “Hell in a Handbasket” as Rough Cut picks notes out of acoustic Folk with a Son House tune (“Depot Blues”) and makes a boogie beat the soundtrack for “One Night Only”.
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Alpha Mule (from the album Peripheral Vision)
Alpha Mule is a Southern California duo of artistic multi-taskers, the group’s musicians both entrenched in a visual art world with Joey Forkan an exhibiting painter and Professor of Art at CSU Fullerton and Eric Stoner a professional photographer, teaching photography classes at Laguna College of Art and Design. The recent release from Alpha Mule, Peripheral Vision, was recorded in Tucson, Arizona, the album featuring local Arizona musicians with Calexico’s Joey Burns and Jacob Valenzuela. With a west coast focus, Peripheral Vision, debuts the sound of Alpha Mule, and their mix of Blues, Folk, Country, Bluegrass, and Rock’n’Roll.
Alpha Mule shuffle along with the shady characters and quick moving hustlers in “Pavlov”, dance a wavering waltz melody over “The Distance”, back “Mule in the Mine” with a jugband ramble, and put a little Country into the love story of “On the Moon”. Peripheral Vision strums a honky tonk sway for its title track and follow as the banjo leads down the outlaw trails through “Corpus Christi” as Alpha Mule use instruments as the storyline for a western adventurer in “The Ballad of Huell Howser”.
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Darling West (from the album While I Was Asleep)
For their third album release, While I Was Asleep, Darling West went into the studio with a suitcase full of new songs, putting themselves into the producer’s seat for the recording, and adding drums to their sound. While I Was Asleep benefits from the steady touring, playing festivals in their native Norway, and venturing into the U.S. market with slots at AmericanaFest and Folk Alliance. The songs on While I Was Asleep stay true to the Americana/Roots curated by Darling West, adding a Pop sensibility into the tracks with the production touching the title track with a hint of psychedelia, punching up the beat of “Don’t I Know You”, and soundtracking “Always Around” with a delicate flurry of Folk acoustics over a persistent shuffle of heartbeat percussion.
The music of Darling West drifts over land and ocean from Roots sounds developed in the mountains and deserts of the United States. While I Was Asleep echoes sounds of the American Southwest as dry breezes blow over “Ballad of an Outlaw”, banjo and guitar strums guide the string band backing for “How I Wish”, and tender guitar notes and dreamy pedal steel swells comfort “Traveller”. Darling West stretch out their sound, keeping the charm of Americana in place as they confidently stride into While I Was Asleep with a musical awareness as they attempt to find the same maturity in the life decisions of “Better Than Gold”.
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Demos Papadimas (from the album The “Lucky You” E.P.)
Greek Rembetico is a style of music that surfaced in the 1960’s when varied forms of urban Greek music were drawn into a common genre. The stories mirrors the lives of the Greek people, speaking to their souls, reflecting the trials and tribulations….the Greek Blues. Demos Papadimas incorporates the Mediterranean influence of Rembetico into his songs, blending European influences with a heartland Roots music developed in his Ohio homebase. Demos Papadimas releases an E.P. of the blending of styles with The “Lucky You” E.P., his band a ‘truly collaborative effort’ as Demos adds to his guitar, harmonica, and bouzouki with a solid rhythm, an additional guitar, and violin.
Country rhythms open the E.P. as Demos Papadimas waves goodbye and wonders the fate of a friend in need of room to move on with “Still the Same” and boards a fast-track beat to wrangle “Tension in the Air”. The world can be a weary place and Demos Papadimas accurately casts shadows on our daily lives in his songs. The stories on The “Lucky You” E.P. have words that support and inspire, and at the very least pull wayward souls back from teetering over the edge. Demos Papadimas quiets the instrumentation to offer advice on the title track and structures “Somehow” as an audio example of his style blend while The “Lucky You” E.P. exits on a live track with “How Long”.
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Fruition (from the album Watching It All Fall Apart)
Sharp guitar notes accent the message in “I’ll Never Sing Your Name” as rolling beats tumble underneath “There She Was” and shuffled percussion skitters under the gentle promises for better times in “Eraser”. Musically, the songs breathe varied styles, blending and mixing together Indie Rock and Roots throughout Watching It All Fall Apart, the recent release from Portland, Oregon’s Fruition. A Country sway cradles the night’s goal of “Let’s Take It Too Far” as a stuttering groove hesitates like the story in “I Should Be (on Top of the World)”, Beatles-esque Pop bubbles around “Turn to Dust”, and a mighty stomp kicks open the doors of Watching It All Fall Apart with opening cut, “Stuck on You”.
For the fifth full-length release, Fruition collected stories about heartbreak, the band feeling that ‘the songs are mostly breakup songs. There was love and now it’s gone—we fucked it up, or some outside circumstance brought it to an end. It’s about dealing with all that but still having hope in your heart, even if you’re feeling a little lost and jaded’. Sonics twirl and spin as “FOMO” wanders through dramatic scenes of an evening as Fruition make a wish on “Lonesome Prayer” and find themselves alone in a “Northern Town” on a sad Americana tale.
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Sarah McQuaid (from the album If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous)
Light and dark swirl through If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, the recent release from Sarah McQuaid. A weight falls on the topics, the stories stare into the face of mortality as Sarah McQuaid brightens the theme by surrounding the tales with guitar notes, primarily on acoustic strings. A loan from producer Michael Chapman is the backing for the title track as Sarah plugs in an electric guitar to intricately entwine the playing with the subtle percussion of the track. If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous stacks cover versions in the middle of an album listen, reworking “Forever Autumn”, made famous by Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, leading into the Gregorian chant “Dies Irae”, continuing the mood into an English language translation of the title with an instrumental written by Sarah McQuaid, “The Day of Wrath; That Day”.
Carefully plucked notes sparkle like refracted light as the mood turns somber to consider “Time to Love” while more form is given to the musical structures of the instrumental “New Beginnings” as If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous watches flesh and bone fade with “Slow Decay” and “Break Me Down”. There is a depth to the vocals of Sarah McQuaid, the velvet resonance a match for her talents on guitar. Sarah McQuaid slowly follows “The Tug of the Moon” on barely moving rhythms while If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous relates the eminent demise of a bird in “One Sparrow Down”.
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