The common ground for all the music that comes in to our offices is the amount of commitment to each production. Musicians have the luxury of making albums that play host to their songs without any style affiliation. Below are the songs that kicked, scraped and nudged one another out of the way for this week's list. No songs were injured during the process. There is some great music looking for light and a way to get its sound heard, if you listen. Here are ten songs to start the process....
1. Robert Randolph & The Family Band – “Amped Up” (from the album Lickety Split) - Mr. Robert Randolph has been busy as the man who has brought the sound of pedal steel guitar as sacred steel to worldwide audiences for more than a decade. Taking care of that side of his business keeps Robert on the road for close to 280 days a year. In that schedule, he found that “you wind up playing too much and it isn’t fun anymore.” Lickety Split, released July 16, 2013, is the first Robert Randolph and The Family Band recording in three years, and the first for new label home Blue Note Records. “Amped Up” is the opening track for Likety Split.. It is safe to say that the band has found their way back to the joy in their music, and in their playing. “Amped Up” is an aggressive funk attack. From the moment it walks into the room, it doesn’t let you go until the last note, but during the time together it sets you free.
Listen and buy “Amped Up” by Robert Randolph and The Family Band from AMAZON
2. The Del-Lords – “When the Drugs Kick In” (from the album Elvis Club) - The Del-Lords give us a more mature, elder statesmen version of ‘the dog ate my homework’. “When the Drugs Kick In” oddly, does not take sides for right or wrong. It is not saying that the results of ingesting, imbibing, smoking, shooting or rifling through friends and neighbors medicine cabinets is bad. It simply suggest that you should not expect too much from the designated abuser. Big ideas and dreams are no match for the drugs and getting high is like becoming “an uncast vote in a fixed election.” The Del-Lords use their brand of rock’n’roll fire to drive a story that raises personal questions with three chords and the truth.
3. Dylan Sneed – “Texodus” (from the album Texodus) - Sometimes you can’t put your finger on a reason. Dylan Sneed is singing about leaving, maybe not knowing the why but clearly seeing the need to go. The answers as simple as his chorus, “my home, is the place I had to leave.” In “Texodus”, Dylan’s character grew up privileged “I was born a rebel son, color of most everyone, white as lightning, silver spoon in hand.” Over a beat that wants to make it to the exist as fast as Dylan Sneed, “Texodus” is a song about leaving home as the best step to make even if the path is unfamiliar.
4. Michelle Malone – “Other Girls” (from the album Day 2) - It is human nature to want what we can’t have, and to never be happy with the way we are. Michelle Malone raises her head and rocks the reasons she is not content. Prettier and with more attributes where it counts, like getting out of parking tickets, are options she might want to have available. Michelle sees those eyes staring at her for the things she has. “Other Girls” see the “carefree, rock star, royalty, jet set, pent house, hot chauffeur” part of Michelle. Well, the lady behind the song would also like a ticket to that particular show. “Other Girls’ rocks and rolls like Michelle is being backed like The Attractions. Michelle gives you a dose of reality with the line “the grass ain’t greener just a different color.”
5. Jim Byrnes with Coleen Rennison – “Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries” (from the album I Hear the Wind in the Wires) - Summer is here the world is in bloom. Swimming in the pond and gathering all that the earth has to offer are fair game as excuses to sneak away. Love is proud but sometimes it is a lot better if the two on the inside of love are the only ones aware of what is going on. It is possible that not everyone would approve and other hearts could be hurt. Just so that everybody can stay as happy as the two in “Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries” the pair use the song title as the reason for being away from home, and for hair and lipstick that is one big can of mess. Jim Byrnes and Coleen Rennison take on the roles that Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn developed for their version of the 1950-60 hit.
6. Willie Nelson – “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” (from the album Heroes) - In “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”, Willie Nelson has summer in his step and 420 in his heart, and apparently in his bloodstream, vital organs and bubbling up through his skin. In his role as elder in the fight to legalize and as a proud pot smoker, Willie offers to be the gift that keeps on giving. The song bounces and beams with an illegal smile as friends stop in; taking a verse and asking to become part of your future stash. Joining Willie in song are Jamey Johnson. Kris Kristofferson and Snoop Dogg….good candidates all for the song’s suggestion. Get out the freeze driers and grease up the grinders, we got a big load coming in.
7. 50 Sticks of Dynamite – “Love Dream Truth Love” (from the album Love * Dream * Truth * Love) - The sound that 50 Sticks of Dynamite make on Love*Dream*Truth*Love is big….arena rock big. The basic guitar, bass, drums is given a roots link with the banjo. For its part, the banjo is electric and ready to claim its spot on stage with instruments known for their power. If sound were scent, the opening bass line for the song “Love Dream Truth Love” is made of pheromones. The drum and crunchy chords join to push the song along as Ian McFayden waxes philosophical over a rhythm that takes no prisoners.
8. Dave Arcari & the Helsinki Hellraisers – “Traveling Riverside Blues” (from the album Whisky in My Blood) - Whisky in My Blood has the sound of true Mississippi Delta electric blues. The album features a dirty, distorted National guitar, a bass man who serves double duty on both electric and upright, and a percussionist at home with snare and washboard. The songs are authentic children of the Blues; heartbreak and hallelujah are present in the story lines, sometimes riding together on the same track. The one small difference is that Whisky in My Blood is not a Fat Possum Records find but comes courtesy of Finnish label, Blue North. “Traveling Riverside Blues” is a non-stop electric Blues trance that showcases the true blues of Dave Arcari & The Hellsinki Hellraisers. They are sons of a frozen land of lakes and forests but these boys have sunk their roots deep into the delta mud.
Listen and buy “Traveling Riverside Blues” by Dave Arcari & the Hellsinki Hellraisers from AMAZON or iTunes
9. Head for the Hills – “Dependency Co.” (from the album Blue Ruin) - There is happily no way whatsoever to describe Head for the Hills. If you look at them before one note is played, they are a string/bluegrass band; mandolin, guitar, violin and bass. Looks do not always tell the truth, and that certainly applies to Head for the Hills. It is progressive bluegrass in the vein of artists like Crooked Still and a string band melting pot like Leftover Salmon. Head for the Hills is bluegrass filtered through the sounds of jazz, indie rock, hip hop, world music and folk, “Dependency Co.” is bluegrass as a music bed, melodically rapped lyrics, choral harmonies and a trumpet telling the age old story about he things we do for love.
Listen and buy “Dependency Co.” by Head for the Hills from AMAZON or iTunes
Available on July 9th
10. Linda McRae – “Rough Edges and Ragged Hearts” (from the album Rough Edges and Ragged Hearts) - “Rough Edges and Ragged Hearts” closes out the list as a late night, last-song-on-the-jukebox reminder that you are alone. All alone and there is absolutely no chance of anyone offering to help you make it through the night. Linda McRae’s voice rises up from deep down seeing the light of one more break in the lines of a song and within the notes of the band on stage. Out there on the fringes where “living is a dying art”, there is a gathering point for those “Rough Edges and Ragged Hearts” to find comfort in a chorus filled with like-minded souls.
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