Bishop Gunn (from the album Natchez available on Farm2Turntable Records)
The story of a soul changing hands at the crossroads has moved between myth and reality for decades. Bishop Gunn return to memories of Robert Johnson and Charlie Daniels as the Mississippi-based band does the reveal for the demon in their songs in “Devil is a Woman”. Bishop Gunn title their recent debut release Natchez for the town where band members grew up. Forming around a mutual love and respect for both the history and sounds of the Delta, Bishop Gunn (Travis McCready - vocals, Burne Sharp - drums, Drew Smithers – guitar, and Ben Lewis - bass) grew putting a lot of Southern into their Rock, infusing the cuts on Natchez with healthy doses of Southern Soul (“Shine”), Gospel Blues (“Alabama”), and dark Americana (“Silver Street”).
The members of Bishop Gunn create a safe place for their sound to mature, co-habitating in a farmhouse outside of Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, writing and recording in a home studio with rehearsals taking place at a nearby re-purposed grocery store. Natchez speaks for the freedom of the open road when one of a character hero takes to the highway with a smile as long as the stretch of blacktop out the windshield in “Wheels”. Bishop Gunn stomp into the album, singing a story of the south in the first cut “Southern Discomfort”. Natchez chews on a Blues groove asking “Baby, What You Want Me to Do”, finds a heart that beats in time with “Right There with Me”, and gives it up for an older lover for “All the Ways” as Bishop Gunn cruise down “Silver Street” with heavy beats parting the curtains of a death waltz circling on the concrete.
Listen and buy the music of Bishop Gunn from AMAZON
Hymn for Her (from the album Pop-N-Downers available as a self-release)
It’s difficult to predict what sounds Hymn for Her will pull out of their back pocket. When they sing a line like ‘you may never be here again’ in the cut “Scoop” on Pop-N-Downers, the latest release from Hymn for Her, they could also be referring to an audio area they’re occupying in that second, a space with a certain sound they’ll inhabit briefly, leaving quicker than it took to get there. Soon after Hymn for Her surface somewhere else in a world soundtracked by Blues or Indie-Rock, Psychedelic Folk or Lounge Music, where a ukulele is kin with a banjo or cigar box guitar while metallic tin taps from a kid’s toy piano jingle underneath.
Pop-N-Downers finds the Hymn for Her covering all that ground and more. The duo of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing can bang out noise and play something appealing on a plethora of levels; there is musical sophistication and some simple riffs within the dirty Folk and hints of Psychedelia. The album kicks off with the dreamy “Blue Balloons” and the contemplative rocker “Human Condition”…..‘you’re born crying, you live complaining, and you die disappointed’. Lyrical brutality comes via one of the catchiest tunes on the album. “November” is beautiful; Lucy Tight’s vocals crisp over a simple ukulele rhythm with a bluesy slide guitar while subtle snapping plays background. “Dingle Town” begins with simple banjo and kicks along like a punk-rock sea shanty. Followed by “First Clown on the Moon,” these 2 come like a one-two punch in the up-beat and dirty category. They walk a fine line between dreamy and mellow, rocking and raw; undefined by instrumentation, whether a banjo, simple kick drum or simple piano Hymn for Her finds each one its place. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Hymn for Her from AMAZON
Vintage Trouble (from the E.P. Volume II available on McGhee Entertainment)
The excitement of an old school Soul show, backed by the crisp, to-the-point Rock’n’Soul of Vintage Trouble has gotten the Los Angeles, California-based band attention on a world-wide stage. Opening tour slots for The Who, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and Bon Jovi, as well as television appearances on Later… with Jools Holland, Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!, and four The Tonight Show in one year put Vintage Trouble in front of an massive audience. The band gives credit to their performance as an entry to a career, looking to get the same feel of live shows in the studio. Vintage Trouble frontman Ty Taylor knew that ‘we wanted to take something from the past and put it in contemporary framing. That was the impetus. We decided to play what felt like pop songs would be with rhythm & blues and rock ‘n’ roll tension. There’s a different life to the music. That was the entire mission behind this new phase’.
The result is Volume II – EP I, Vintage Trouble packing a full show into five cuts, barreling through “Can’t Stop Rollin’” on an effervescent rhythm, slowing for a dramatic sound tracking “My Whole World Stopped Without You”, and pushing a powerful groove made of a thick backbeat and sweeping strings to march through “The Battle’s End”. Using a three-piece powerhouse (Nalle Colt - guitar, Rick Barrio Dill - bass, Richard Danielson - drums) to lay a path for the vocals, Vintage Trouble plant a noir edge into the street smarts story of “Crystal Clarity” as Volume II - EP I opens with first cut “Do Me Right” stepping into life with a funky swagger and sass.
Listen and buy the music of Vintage Trouble from the AMAZON
Oxlip (from the album Wolves! cried the maid available as a self-release)
Much like the music she creates, the flower that Oxlip chooses as a name grows in the woods and meadows, harnessing the power of the nature around us. The sound of Wolves! cried the maid, the latest release from Oxlip, is Folk music born in fantasy, ethereal sounds that drift and take form from the landscape that surrounds the stories. Oxlip delicately unpacks a storyline from a soft Folk Rock wrapping in “Prophet from St. Paul” as heavy sonic footsteps diligently march through the dreamy audio wisps of “The Well (that never runs dry)”. Wolves! cried the maiduses faith in government as the ink that writes the pleas of Oklahoma farmers in “Dust” and gazes out on “Two Lovely Swans” gliding on the low rumble of guitar distortion and ping/pong vocals.
Oxlip crafts songs that offer a glimpse into a different world, a through-the-looking-glass domain, decorated with bright colors and scents against a stark musical landscape in “Garden of Roses”. A weight descends in the trance rock rhythms of “This Dark Hour” as “Lark in the Morning” rises up on thick rolling sound clouds. Oxlip utters a prayer to forest gods on vocals that entreat as they echo through canyons and over vast open expanses of desert with “Children of Zion” while Wolves! cried the maidtakes a cue from a rigid rhythm to stay vigilant with its intentions as resolve weakens in “Outshine the Devil”.
Listen and buy the music of Oxlip from AMAZON
Sugarcane Jane (from the album Southern State of Mind available on ArenA Recordings)
Divisions are made based on personal decisions and invisible walls are built based on the way we view the world politically. In an us against them game, we need to remind ourselves that our environment is not the people around us, it is the beauty of the land on which we walk. Sugarcane Jane start the conversation as they embrace the joys of living in their Alabama home with a new album, Southern State of Mind. Ragged guitar chords move the clouds aside when “Rainbow” spreads a message of hope as Sugarcane Jane pick up the rhythm to plow through the working day to gather around with friends and music in the evening hours around “Campfire”.
Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee (Sugarcane Jane) provide all the vocals for Southern State of Mindwith co-producer Buzz Cason lending harmony. Recorded at Admiral Bean Studio in Loxley, Alabama, Southern State of Mindwith Wanda Vick adding banjo and fiddle to the instrumental backing for the recording, all supplied by Anthony Crawford. A dark melody and a steady pace to the beat and story gives “Man of Fewest Words” an air of prophecy while a persistent thump builds four walls of rhythm around “Cabin on the Hill”. Southern State of Mindkeeps homefires burning for a man away from the land he loves in the title track as Sugarcane Jane follow “Destiny” on an infectious groove as they offer words for hearts with the advice of “The One Before Me” and the cautious steps of “Red Flags Warning” as they sprinkle optimism and wonder along a path leading into tomorrow with “We Can Dream”.
Listen and buy the music of Sugarcane Jane from AMAZON
Southern Culture on the Skids (from the album Bootleggers Choice available on Kudzu Records)
Shimmy, swagger, and sass are mainstays in the songs of Southern Culture on the Skids. Collecting requests from fans for the band’s two major label release, Southern Culture on the Skids offer Bootleggers Choice, sixteen reworked versions of cuts from Dirt Track Date and Plastic Seat Sweat plus a remastered version of “Camel Walk” from their debut E.P. Santo Sings. Bootleggers Choice opens the album on a rock’n’roll stomp and snarling guitars for an environmental message on a 4/4 beat as Southern Culture on the Skids face off against “Earthmover”. Miles and miles take SCOTS down the road with cities changing though the scent inside the band van stays set to “Fried Chicken and Gasoline” while Bootleggers Choice revs up “Voodoo Cadillac” with rubbery guitar licks and cowbell clicks, lights up “Firefly” with a boogie grove, and cha-cha’s south of the border into “House of Bamboo”.
The words of Southern Culture on the Skids are penned with a punk smirk, the music tracking rockabilly, surf music, country, and R&B. Bootleggers Choice psychedelisizes the sound as the album offers a spin on “Dance with Me”, pulls into a drive-thru window on a wobbly wrangle to order “Eight-Piece Box”, slaps a Bo-Diddly beat on “Whole Lotta Things”, and works out a re-working of “Nitty Gritty” on rapidly shifting steps. Forming in the mid 1980’s, SCOTS put their major label releases out in the early 1990’s, continuing to release albums and tour through 2018. Bootleggers Choice spits and snarls, the songs led by guitar riffs that use a vintage six string muse to deliver rock’n’roll sizzle for the new millennia. Southern Culture on the Skids start the engine with a pounding backbeat crushing asphalt in “40 Miles to Vegas” and keeps the motor running for “Dirt Track Date” as Bootleggers Choice raises a mighty funk as SCOTS spitshine and shout out an invite for “Soul City”.
Listen and buy the music of Southern Culture on the Skids from AMAZON
The Earls of Leicester (from the album Live from the CMA Theatre in the Country Music Hall of Fame available on New Rounder Records)
A few blocks from the Ryman Auditorium, the CMA Theatre played host to The Earls of Leicester, collecting live performance highlights from a two-night stand with Live from the CMA Theatre in the Country Music Hall of Fame. A mutual love of music built a border for The Earls of Leicester, the band making a decision when forming in 2013 to plan their setlist from the Flatts and Scruggs catalog, specifically songs recorded between 1954 to 1965. Live from the CMA Theatre welcome in Flatt & Scruggs hits such as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”, “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down”, and I’ll Go Stepping Too” as well tunes found deep in notebooks and recording sessions, including “Martha White Theme Song”, originally penned for Martha White Self-Rising Flour, and a Bluegrass mash-up with “Steel Guitar Blues/Spanish Two Step”.
The Earls of Leicester, Barry Bales (bass, vocals), Shawn Camp (guitar, lead vocals), Charlie Cushman (banjo, guitar), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Johnny Warren (fiddle, vocals), and Jeff White (mandolin), honor tradition as they carve out a spot for Bluegrass in 2018 with a top-shelf playback of the genre. The band barrels through “Rolling in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and sings the Blues with “Big Black Train” as The Earls of Leicester send a belated sympathy note to President McKinley with “White House Blues” while Live at the CMA Theatre kicks off with first track “Salty Dog Blues” and returns a tune to the stage formerly banned by the Grand Ol’ Opry with “I’m Gonna Sleep with One Eye Open”.
Listen and buy the music of The Earls of Leicester from AMAZON
Joe Louis Walker, Bruce Katz, Giles Robson (from the album Journeys to the Heart of the Blues available on Alligator Records)
Three masters travel together with Journeys to the Heart of the Blues joining Joe Louis Walker, Bruce Katz, and Giles Robson on the recent release from Alligator Records. The trio pack light on the recording, stripping down to bare essentials as they time jump to the Blues of the past with only guitar (Joe Louis Walker), piano (Bruce Katz), and harmonica (Giles Robson). British harmonica man Giles Robson dreamt up the idea of recording with Joe Louis Walker with bass and drums. Joe Louis suggested bringing in Bruce Katz and Journey to the Heart of the Blues was born.
The tracks on the album focus on acoustic Blues, evoking the spirit of the sound with tracks from originators Sonny Boy Willamson (“I’m a Lonely Man”), Big Maceo (“Poor Kelly Blues”), and Blind Willie McTell (“Murderer’s Home”). Joe Louis Walker, Bruce Katz, and Giles Robson curate the Blues of the past, staying true to a vintage representation in the recording, scars showing in the live performance setting as well in the stories on Journey to the Heart of the Blues. While the trio cherry-pick from marquee names in the genre, they mine the crates for lesser known Bluesmen with the songs of Papa Lightfoot (“Mean Old Train”), Roosevelt Sykes (“Feel Like Blowing My Horn”), and Son Bond (“Hard Pill to Swallow”). Joe Louis Walker, Bruce Katz and Giles Robson put a boogie into Big Maceo’s “Chicago Breakdown” and slide some rhythm into the Blues shouting “It’s You, Baby”. while Journeys to the Heart of the Blues strides and struts along “Hell Ain’t But a Mile and a Quarter” backed by a solo piano and puts a guitar with the harmonica at a table for two in “G & J Boogie”.
Listen and buy the music of Joe Louis Walker, Bruce Katz, Giles Robson from AMAZON
The Bottle Rockets (from the album Bit Logic available on Bloodshot Records)
Installing a safe room at home is a good story for with a suspense plot. The reality of finding personal space is that if you find a comfort zone, hold on. On paper, the “Knotty Pine” that The Bottle Rockets sing about on Bit Logic, their latest release, feels a little cramped with a low ceiling and limited stretch out room though in the hands of frontman/songwriter Brian Henneman, the place he finds as his muse is paradise. On the track as well as the family of tunes on Bit Logic, the beauty of a Bottle Rockets tune is how the band packs so much into a three-four-minute sprint. Emotions, observations, hurdles, and pitfalls all form a line on the path out of the bumps and bruises of the story as the band backs their tales with a Country Rock’n’Roll soundtrack. Bit Logic offers a batch of audio friends with a satchel full of new adventures in the day-to-day life of the human condition.
Walls go up in the story of “Saxophone” as a visible line dissects yours and mine within the circle of a relationship while Bit Logic gives big love to vintage sounds, filling in the plus column with the glories of “Lo-Fi”, polishes “Silver Ring” to make it shine like gold in its words of love, and scratches tension into the lines of “Doomsday Letter” with a low rumble in the rhythm. Since their beginnings in 1992, The Bottle Rockets have curated a brand of punk rock attitude that demands equal rights in the form of a fair shake while putting a snarl in their Country and downhome in their rock’n’roll. Bit Logic gives a manifesto on modern living in the title track as The Bottle Rockets sing tour diaries as they put rubber on the road in “Highway 70 Blues”, mark the distance between home and stage in “Way Down South”, load in for a Missouri show in “Stovall’s Grove”, and reflect on career choices with “Bad Time to Be an Outlaw”.
Listen and buy the music of The Bottle Rockets from AMAZON
Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams (from the album Hard Core Broken Heart available as a self-release)
They are a band that may be stuck in the center of too rock’n’roll for country and too country for rock’n’roll, and perhaps that is why they are both pleasantly left-of-center and so good. Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams continue to connect the dots between classic country and rock and roll while two-stepping to the goth-country-punk that was born in Denver Colorado. As a frontman, Halden Wofford shouts AND croons, his lyrics at times dark and sad, others moments spirited and irreverent. Halden Wofford is backed by a whip-snap tight band that includes the pedal steel of Bret Billings and six-string guitar of Greg Schochet, two players that seem incapable of a bad note.
On their latest record, Hard Core Broken Heart, Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams recruit legendary guitar twangbanger Bill Kirchen to produce and lend some riffs to a band who long ago learned lessons with their Kirchen homework. Things kick off with a broken heart song (naturally) in “What Can You Do?” and a baritone guitar leads from Bill Kirchen’s hand, Bill playfully trading licks with the steel guitar. “Ashes on the Dancefloor” is somber sad country, a staple of any and all Hi-Beams record where you can feel the sawdust under your boots. Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams albums always include a bouncy instrumental, provided by the knockout “Rabbit Ears Polka” on Hard Core Broken Heart with a cut that features Greg Schochet, Bret Billings, Bill Kirchen, and guest fiddler Katie Glassman taking turns showing off serious chops. “30-Pack” is the cow-punk sing-along on the album and a homage to those feeling that twenty-four beers per pack is not good enough as “The Swag” features Bret Billings Blues harmonica work. Hard Core Broken Heart wraps up with guest vocalist Mollie O’Brien on “Always Remembered”, ending the album with a melancholic twist. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams from AMAZON