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Showing posts from 2019

Judgement Train - Rustin Man

from the album Drift Code (2019)

When you die, which is it: heaven or hell?

Chances are that, if you play along, you will chose heaven.  It is a lot like picking Palm Springs over East Saint Louis; and, after all, although there were times that you were bad, were you really eternal damnation bad?

Judgement Train is a song about a man boarding the final train ride, his fate awaiting at the other end.  The ride is pretty groovy, with psychedelic stylings over a hippie beat.  The protagonist is fairly certain that heaven awaits, singing:

I'm on the next judgement train
Let me raise the pearly gates

But, ultimately, it is not meant to be:

The tunnel has turned the air so black
Can't believe what I have done
Never lie to the darker side
When the girl takes my hand
I feel her skin is a lot like mine

I dig this song for its story-telling and for its rich visual imagery.  I also dig the groove.  How fun would it be to play with this band?

I also dig the backstory on the artist.  Rustin Man is…

Cedars - Desperate Journalist

from the album In Search Of The Miraculous (2019)

Of all the bands out there in the musicverse, very few produce records that soars.  Desperate Journalist is one of those bands.

On the song Cedars, the London post-punkers Desperate Journalist deliver a song that physically and emotionally lift the listener into a magical place where you dance on a melody and sway to a propulsive groove.

The band is sensational, evoking the spirit of Blondie and The Pretenders while remaining modern and relevant.  The bass playing is particularly notable for its texture, tone, and joy.  The sound of the snare is Goldilocks good (not too dead, not too in-your-face, but rather it is just right).  The rhythm guitar has masterful jangle, and the guitar leads cuts through the mix to create a song within a song.

But the true star of the show are the vocals of Jo Bevan.  In the verses, she sings almost conversationally with tones of vigor and longing.  In the chorus, her voice raises to the stratosphere, leav…

Mississippi Magic - Eric Brace, Thomas Cooper, & Thomm Jutz

from the album Riverland (2019)

Storytelling is perhaps the most natural form of human communications.  It's power lies in it's memorability, reliability, and it's ability to build trust between the storyteller and their audience.

In the American South, storytelling is uniquely and forever woven into the culture.  It binds those who consider themselves "southerners," and is celebrated in the works of William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Harper Lee, and Zora Neale Hurston.

On their incredible new folk album - Riverland - Eric Brace, Thomas Cooper, and Thomm Jutz tell stories of Mississippi and the Delta.  The record is steep in southern culture and tradition.  My favorite song on the album is Mississippi Magic, a reflection on the social tension encountered by Mississippians during the efforts to integrate the state's education system at the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The song based on the writings and reflections of Will D. Campbell…

Running - Helado Negro

from the album This Is How You Smile (2019)

There is a reason why your yoga instructor never plays Rage Against The Machine during her classes.  It is the same reason why her candles don't smell like diesel fuel.  She is creating a sensory experience designed to enhance your lesson.

I dig it when songwriters craft their compositions to transport the listener into a desired state.  In the case of the song Running, by Helado Negro, we are treated to a lush dreamscape that allows the listener to escape the tension and trappings of their world to relax and feel a floating freedom.

It is fascinating how this atmosphere is constructed.  The tempo is slow, creating space.  The chord progressions are circular, creating an infinite loop with no beginning and no end.  The beat is simple and steady, allowing the hi-hat and snare to give the effect of a ticking clock.  The vocals are delivered softly, with light echo and reverb adding to the song's sedative vibe.

My favorite part of the c…

Got A Lotta Love - The Cactus Blossoms

from the album Easy Way (2019)

I dig songs that are simple and honest, particularly when they speak to universal desires of ordinary people.

Got A Lotta Love by The Cactus Blossoms is such a song.  It is straightforward and earnest, in an Everly Brothers kind of way, pleading for love to be reciprocated.

If you don't want me
You can't have me
I'm not the kind of guy who likes to hang around

If you can't trust me
Walk right past me
That doesn't mean that I wouldn't settle down

Cause I've got a lotta love
Got a lotta love
Got a lotta love to give

What makes this song stand apart from its contemporaries is it's craftsmanship.  The two-part harmonies blend together effortlessly.  The light twang of the guitar is lead guitar and the laid back strum of the acoustic are perfectly balanced.  The drum beat it is sparse, but tasty, and the bass subliminally buoys the entire composition.

This song is pretty, sweet, and pure.

Click Here to listen to Got A Lotta Love by The Ca…

Slowly Speeding - Kim Lenz

from the album Slowly Speeding (2019)

There is something in tones of rockabilly-noir that resonates in a dark corner of the spirit that other sounds never quite seem to reach.

On the title track from her latest album, Slowly Speeding, Kim Lenz turn the tempo down and the reverb up to create a slow-burning, Texas waltz that is timeless.

On first listen, this song is stunning in its soundscape of vintage tones slowly ringing over a warm analog hum.  The sounds are incredible.

However, on further listens, the senses overload on how perfectly executed the subtleties of the recording are delivered.  The strum of the acoustic guitar.  The way the two-part harmonies melt into each other.  The magnificently captured drum track.

I find that this song is best listened to late in the evening with a cocktail by my side.  When I close my eyes, I see cigarette smoke rising through the purple, neon-lit light.  It is a night ripe with temptation. Slow dancing with a sultry seductress.  The touch of h…

Faraway Look - Yola

from the album Walk Through Fire (2019)

Yola is an exquisitely gifted singer from the United Kingdom.  Her genre-bending voice defies boundaries as it soars above any form of musical accompaniment.  She is soul.  She is country.  She is rock.  She is Yola!

On her song Faraway Look, the listener is treated to a big, 1960s production made possible through the handiwork of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.  The record combines modern fidelity with vintage tones, while never impeding on the singer, or her authenticity.

As I listen to this song, I am reminded of the grandeur of great artists, like Roberta Flack.  It is amazing how big Yola's voice is.  Equally amazing is her intonation and the subtle textures in her vocal delivery.  She simply blows me away.

This is one hell of a record.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Faraway Look by Yola.

Red Bull & Hennessy - Jenny Lewis

from the album On The Line (2019)

Although winter is not yet through, and a bit of ice and snow may still await those in the southern states, early signs of spring - like daffodil and forcenthia blooms - are accompanying warm days and rainy nights.

These are times for rolling down the windows, cranking up the stereo, and singing along like as though nobody else can hear you (except at red lights, ugh).

Jenny Lewis' first new single in years - Red Bull & Hennessy - is perfect for times like this.  The tempo is driving, though not too much so, encouraging you to put a little more weight on the gas pedal.  The way the bass and kick drum fuel the groove with a boom, boom-boom, boom, boom-boom, adds to the song's feeling the of freedom.  And, most importantly, Jenny Lewis' full-throated singing about drinking booze and hooking up forces the listener to sing along:

I'm wired on Red Bull and Hennessy
Higher than you
I'm on fire, c'mon and get next to me
I wanna ride w…

The Way It All Began - The Lonely Heartstring Band

from the album Smoke & Ashes (2019)

The Way It All Began is a beautiful bluegrass song by The Lonely Heartstring Band.

The recording has a lovely 1970s analog warmth, that meshes well with the lead vocals, giving a similar feel to what you might have found in a Kenny Loggins record of that era.

I am a big fan of how the traditional instruments - mandolin, fiddle, and banjo - combine with sweet, three-part harmonies to produce a timeless soundscape.

If you are in the mood for a mellow and melodic bluegrass tune to kick you shoes off to, this should do the trick.

Click Here to listen to The Way It All Began by The Lonely Heartstring Band.

Can't Help The Way I Feel - Lily & Madeleine

from the album Canterbury Girls (2019)

Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz are sisters who began their recording career in 2012, while still in high school.  Four albums later, they are purveyors of a dreamy brand of music that sits at the intersection of folk and retro pop.

Can't Help The Way That I Feel is a highly-glossed song that sits on the retro pop end of their musical spectrum.  Buoyed by a magnificently recorded and played drum track, this song takes the listener back fifty-plus years, to a time when girl groups in sequined dresses performed in broadcast studios that delivered signals in living black and white.

I really dig the bass line and the percussive impact of the subtle piano track.  The synthesizer track is also notable in how it envelopes the soundscape.

But the real stars of this show are Lily & Madeleine.  Their voices ring pitch-perfect and true.  They also a sultry and dreamy, detached sheen that I often associate with certain Bananarama songs.

It is hard not t…

Don't Know How To Keep Loving You - Julia Jacklin

from the album Crushing (2019)

On her new album, Crushing, Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin offers tender and thoughtful reflection on getting by in the weeks, and months, following a breakup.  The music is downtempo, honest, and magnificently arranged.  In unveiling her self, she allows the listeners to hold a mirror to themselves, revealing truths they may not have previously explored.

My favorite tune on record is Don't Know How To Keep Loving You, a break-up song about a relationship that ends in ice, rather than fire.  Unlike most songs about this topic, nobody does the other one wrong in some grand and dramatic fashion.  Instead, the singer's feelings for her partner simply wither and fade away.

And every gift you buy me, I know what's inside
What do I do now?
There's nothing left to find

This song is sad and desolate.  And, if you have ever been there, you know just what she is talking about.

Not many artists can write a song that captures the numbing ach…

Different Kind Of Love - Adia Victoria

from the album Silences (2019)

I really dig the way that Nashville artists and producers continue to expand their horizons beyond country music.  I am not sure when it all started, certainly The Black Keys fit into the equation, but, today, when I approach a "Nashville" album, I am not entirely surprised when it something other than country, americana, or bluegrass.

Adia Victoria is a thirty-two year old woman from Nashville.  Her style of music is often described as "gothic blues" or "afro-punk."  Rolling Stone referred to her as "PJ Harvey covering Loretta Lynn at a debutante ball."  I do not really know what any of that means, except that she has an original and intriguing vibe.

Different Kind Of Love is a song with a great retro beat and groove.  It is timeless, with the drums and bass driving the tune.  The guitar tone is perfectly suited for the vibe and the crunchy, distorted saxophone track really stand out.

And the there are the vocals. …

Old Engine Oil - The Budos Band

from the album V (2019)

My buddy Joe lives in Brooklyn.  A few years ago, we were sharing cocktails and talking music, when he said, "Well, this is all great, but the best band in the world are The Budos Band.  You probably never heard of them."

Quite the contrary, buddy Joe!  I am the biggest Daptone Records fan this side of the Outer Bridge Crossing.  I was Up From The South before The Budos Band were a twinkle in your mama's eye.  Never, ever, hit this gigolo with any of that "you probably never heard of them" crap!

But, before you get too down on buddy Joe, please know that he is right.  The Budos Band are the best band in the world.  The reason that they are not more popular is that their brand of funky, soulful Afrobeat ain't nowhere near the stuff your Shazam algorithm is programmed to find.

Old Engine Oil is a pre-release from The Budos Band's fifth studio album.  It is mind-bogglingly great.  Listen to the crunchy, distortion in the guitar tone.…

Motor City Steel - The Dandy Warhols

from the album Why You So Crazy (2019)

Oh my Lord, you could drive a Ford
Or you could drive a Chevy
Or a Jimmie if you really like
A mountain of fun, the USA 1
A Motor City Steel
You gotta give the power to the people

In the nineteen fifties, the American automobile experienced it's golden age, as a nation celebrated it's first economic boom in nearly three decades.  President Eisenhower built the Interstate Freeway system, young families left their dense urban confines for homes in the suburbs, and the lure of the open road represented endless possibility.

The automobiles of that era were colorful and boldly designed.  They were sculpture on wheels.  Still the car represented something far more inviting.  It represented freedom and fun.

And, of course, the same could be said for the latest musical style, rock and roll.

The infectious song Motor City Steel by The Dandy Warhols encapsulates that sense of freedom, fun, and rock and roll perhaps better than any song I've heard in …

Sit Here And Love Me - Caroline Spence

from the album Mint Condition (2019)

Shrewd artists have learned that it is best not to tackle the enormity of love, but rather to focus on the depths of one, or two, of its many aspects.  In doing so, they need not rhyme "love" with "above" or subject their audience to hackneyed metaphors.  Instead, they can explore nuance and depth, unearthing truths about the human condition along the way.

Such is the case with Sit Here And Love Me, a beautiful acoustic song from Nashville-based tunesmith, Caroline Spence.

The song is reportedly (per a press release from her record label) written for a new boyfriend - one with a very sunny and positive disposition - letting him know of her struggles with depression and anxiety.  In the song, she urges him not to try and help her, but rather to simply be there and be himself; to just sit here and love me.

Ultimately, the song is about a very quiet aspect of love, of just being there for someone else.

If you are unfamiliar with Ca…

Mitote - Cochemea

from the album All My Relations (2019)

Cochemea Gastelum is a saxophonist extraordinaire, whose has performed with a litany of artists, including Amy Winehouse, David Byrne, Lady Gaga, Beck, Public Enemy, and - perhaps most importantly - as a member of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.  In addition, he is an accomplished composer and arranger.

On his debut solo album, Cochemea turns his music inward to explore his Native North American heritage.

Mitote is a song whose name is derived from "an ancient, secular, round dance of the Aztecs - and other tribes of the Sierra Madre Occidental - which, in certain cultures, can be associated with a peyote ritual."

The opening saxophone reminds us of his current home of Brooklyn.  From there, polyrhythms of native percussion overtake the composition, only to have the big city saxophone emotively return.  The resulting vibe feels more like surreal fusion than juxtaposition.

You definitely want to play this at your next Aztec-themed peyot…

Crave - Common Ground

from the album Wayward (2019)

Common Ground are a six-piece alternative folk/country band from NYC.  On their debut album, Wayward, I am particularly digging their song Crave - a beautifully-crafted, country waltz that tells a story of ill-fated love set in lower Manhattan.

Met a man in a dimly lit bar down on Avenue A
We talked over whiskey
We talked over beer
And he never took his eyes off of me
Wasn't long till he was in my bed half-asleep
Wasn't long until he was all I want, all I need

The clarity, energy, and emotion in Christina Maida's vocals are exquisite.  The soundscape of bass, acoustic guitar, and drums combined with violin and mandolin effortlessly form ebbs and flows that rise and fall with the vocals, complete with glorious crescendos accented by full-throated harmonies.

I crave him
Oh, I crave him
The way he craves Marlboro Reds

What a perfect lyric for capturing unreciprocated desire.  In this one simple stanza, the listener comes to know - and feel - the singer…

Snake Hip Waltz - Episode 1

Welcome, everybody, to Snake Hip Waltz, a mixtape series that chronicles the best new music of 2019.  Over the coming year, I plan to release ten episodes of eclectic music ranging from indie and alternative to americana and folk to R&B and soul.

This first episode offers all of the above.  It is mellower than many of my mixes but that should not deter you.  These songs are incredible.  I dare you to listen to Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson's cover of Kris Kristofferson's classic For The Good Times without getting chills.  Same for Jessica Pratt's throwback pop stylings on Poly Blue.

The mix also marks the return of Joe Jackson, covers of songs by Velvet Underground and Dolly Parton, and the incomparable soul of Lee Fields.

It is hard to believe that, six weeks into this new year, there are so many fabulous tunes.

I hope you dig my mix and stay tuned for more...


Here is the playlist:

Woman by Karen O & Danger Mouse

Wherever You Go by Dee White

Poly Blue by Jessi…

Failure - Frances Cone

from the album Late Riser (2019)

Frances Cone started out as an indie band from Brooklyn, until their principles - Christina Cone and Andrew Doherty - relocated to Nashville.

Their music is rooted in an indie-alternative sensibility, with pulsing bass lines, driving drum beats, and crunchy guitar tones.  However, there are other tones that run their music that make them a bit more unique, many of them coming from Christina Cone's magnificent vocals, which run the game between hushed alternative folk to soaring ethereal riffing.

Off their latest album, I've been digging the song Failure.  I love how the simple bass groove and beat propels the song through a wash of sonic ambiguity.  It forms a cool vibe that would be enough for most bands.  Yet this song then adds synthesizer-driven diversions into dream pop that is juxtaposed by largely abrasive guitar tones.

The full scope of this song plays well to Christina Cone's voice.  It is well crafted tune with great individual pe…

Jesus And Elvis - Hayes Carll

from the album What It Is (2019)

When I was a boy, my parents had a turntable atop a small entertainment center in our living room.  Below the turntable, were about two dozen records, with the first album facing outward through a glass door.

I used to like flipping through the records, opening them up, reading the liner notes, studying the photos.  There were early Beatles records, some Bossa Nova, Frank Sinatra, and - of course - Bing Crosby's Christmas Album.

Invariably, whichever record I was last looking at wound up in the front position, visible to anyone walking into the room.  However, my mother would always rearrange the records placing the same record in the front position.  That record was a recording of John F. Kennedy's Presidential Inauguration, with a handsome photo of the thirty-fifth president proudly surveying our home.

This made sense.  As a young Irish-Catholic couple, my parents naturally identified with this accomplished and charismatic man.  His image hel…

Psychedelic Country Soul - The Long Ryders

from the album Psychedelic Country Soul (2019)

Friday mornings are always an exciting time at Casa del Gigolo.  These are the mornings when I open my computer to find all new music releases for the week.  I never quite know what is going to catch my eye and strike my fancy.

This morning, I woke a little hazy from too much wine at one of my funky friend's dinner party.  Booting up, I was immediately drawn to a new album by The Long Ryders.  Once upon a time, when I was devouring records by Paisley Underground bands, The Long Ryders were my favorite band of the lot.  I did not see this record coming and my heart began to flutter with delight.

Better yet, the name of the album was Psychedelic Country Soul.  I could not think of three better words to describe place my musical happy space thee days.  I listened to the entire record, delighting in the familiar tones, grooves, and melodies.  But it was not until I hit the final track - the title track - that the stars aligned and the ang…

Cosmic Cave - Ex Hex

from the album It's Real (2019)

What better place to spend Valentine's Day than in a Cosmic Cave with you?

Getting down to groovy tunes.  Dancing around the stalactites (or are they stalagmites?).  Just digging being together, happy and free.

Wanna go spelunking?

Click Here to listen to Cosmic Cave by Ex Hex.

Poly Blue - Jessica Pratt

from the album Quiet Signs (2019)

Jessica Pratt is a Los Angeles-based singer songwriter whose songs stand out for their craftsmanship and sense of style.

Take a listen to her new song Poly Blue. were she creates a beautiful soundscape that evokes a 60s Brazilian, or French, pop-folk vibe.  With her elfin voice and exquisite production, the listener is taken to a tender destination and lulled into a soft, plush dream.

The production value of this song cannot go unmentioned.  The vocals and finger-picked guitar are captured with magnificent fidelity.  I also dig the flute track, whose warmth stealthily adds texture and ambiance to the record.

This song is perfect for rainy days and romantic nights.

Click Here to listen to Poly Blue by Jessica Pratt.

Prayer For Another Day - Cass McCombs

from the album Tip Of The Sphere (2019)

On the song Prayer For Another Day, Cass McCombs infuses a 70s California dream vibe with modern swagger to create an acoustidellic swirl of hazy beauty.

The opening fifty seconds of this song are as magical as an introduction can get.  The opening guitar chords offer flashbacks to a vibe recalling bands like Firefall, yet just before you get hooked in, higher volume, higher fidelity tracks sharply punch through the mix, firmly nudging the listener into the present.

Of these instrumental tracks, the bass really stands out.  There is a hollowness to the tone that contrasts with the bright bounce of the groove to create a softer, more melancholy underpinning that takes the listener to a foreign, more psychedelic place.  The bass patterns offer runs that play off the color of the guitar chords magnificently.  The voicing on each note approaches perfection.

The lyrics then enter, offering a dreamscape where the singer imagines a future day as splend…

For The Good Times - Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson

from the album Amour (2019)

You know that a song must be stellar when the list of artists who have recorded it include Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and even Englebert Humperdink.  Such is the case with For The Good Times, a song written in 1968 by Kris Kristofferson and best remembered for Ray Price's classic rendition from 1970.

This slow-burning song is one of the saddest in country music, articulately recounting the end of a relationship with a sense of detached acceptance, longing, and love.  It stands as a testament to the songwriting brilliance of Kristofferson.

The latest version of this masterpiece comes from Canadian fingerpicker Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson, guitarist for The North Mississippi All-Stars.  The recording is precisely crafted, with classic tones that recall the records that Etta James recorded in Muscle Shoals.

But the highlight of this recording is the vocal performance by Ruby Ananfu.  This singer comes to Nashville from G…

Stranger - Jess Ribeiro

from the single Stranger (2019)

Jess Ribeiro is the latest in a ever-lengthening line of Australian female artists that I totally dig.

Her latest single, titled Stranger, has been at the top of my new music playlist for the past week.  It is straight-forward, alternative songwriter fare that has an intangible quality that I can't seem to get out of my head.  Perhaps it is the way the bouncing bass groove fits so easily with the incredible snare drum track?  Or, maybe it is the tone of the tasty lead guitar segments?  Or, could it be the combination of confidence and restraint in Jess Ribeiro's vocal delivery?

Truth is, I am not certain what it is about this song that has got me feeling twitterpated.  But who cares?  I am grooving out to something fresh.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Stranger by Jess Ribeiro.

Snake Hip Waltz - The Branford Marsalis Quartet

from the album The Secret Between The Shadow And The Soul (2019)

In some ways, I am quite comfortable with jazz music not being as "popular" as many other musical genres.  After all, jazz is - in my opinion - the most important of all musical genres.  As such, I feel that it is for the best that it not be subject to intense commercial and mass market pressures.

This allows jazz to explore and innovate.  It allows jazz to focus on substance over style, producing records of unsurpassed quality and dimension.  It also allows jazz to celebrate its heritage through perpetual reimagining of outstanding musical compositions, creating an enduring legacy and vocabulary for future music lovers.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet - with Branford Marsalis on saxophone, Joey Calderazzo in piano, Eric Reeves on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums - celebrate the past on their forthcoming album with a mellifluous and truthful version of the Snake Hip Waltz, a 1975 work by pianist Andrew Hill'…

Dave - Joe Jackson

from the album Fool (2019)

A few weeks ago, a funky friend sent me a social media post from one of the This Date In Music History websites that proclaimed it to be the fortieth anniversary of both Joe Jackson's Look Sharp and Elvis Costello's Armed Forces album releases.

In many ways, these two artists - along with Graham Parker, Squeeze, and Nick Lowe - helped to shape my musical identity as I stepped into adulthood.  They were witty and Britty.  They were outsiders who preferred to be on the outside.  They were angry, but not "punch you in the face" angry; rather they might cut you up with an intelligent or sarcastic quip.

They also made better music than anyone else.  Beyond the verbal gymnastics, they had an unequalled sense of melody and an appreciation of classical pop that shined through the speakers of my boombox.

I believe that they also shared a love for the craft of writing, recording, and performing music that connected with their music loving audience.  …

Pale Blue Eyes - Deer Tick

from the album Mayonnaise (2019)

In recent years, I have developed a romantic vision of a twenty-two year-old Lou Reed, leaving his Long Island home to pursue a songwriting career in NYC.  I imagine his first apartment, somewhere in the East Village or Lower East Side.  I imagine how mighty the shadow of Bob Dylan must have hung over that that music scene in 1964.

I imagine him working at Pickwick Records, trying to write a hit song.  I imagine him meeting John Cale, who would soon become his roommate, and how that introduced him to experimental musical theatre.  Ultimately, they would form the Velvet Underground.

I imagine him walking the city streets.  I imagine the sights and people he met.  I imagine how that helped him evolve his non-judgmental, nearly existential perspective that would one day encourage legions of social outcasts and misfits to form rock and roll bands.

It must have been magical.

Pale Blue Eyes is a song that Lou Reed wrote in the latter stages of his Velvet Unde…

When She's Feeling Blue - Mandolin Orange

from the album Tides Of A Teardrop (2019)

Mandolin Orange is an Americana folk duo whose music connects with me at a deeper level than nearly any other musical act of this decade.  Their 2013 song, Waltz About Whiskey, is one of the most touching songs I have ever heard.  Once, watching them perform it live at Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Georgia, I left the room in tears.  Not many songs can have that effect on me.

On their latest record, my favorite song is When She's Feeling Blue, a sad tale of a man's lingering affection for a lover who - despite having moved on - returns to his arms when times get tough.

She only holds me in her arms when she's feeling blue
My baby only holds me in her arms when she's feeling blue

There is a dark beauty in the spaces of this song.  In these spaces, the heart easily weeps, particularly for those who mourn past lovers.

Love is a very complex and nuanced thing.  When we write about it in bubble gum fashion, rhyming it with above, we d…

The Pain Of Loving You - Lula Wiles

from the album What Will We Do (2019)

One of the hackneyed classifications spilled about to describe a young crop of folk acts is "folk revivalists."  Taken literally, it conjures the image of hillbilly medics taking the paddles to the chest of Pete Seeger and The Carter Family.

And that is the disagreeable thing of it all.  It implies that folk music is a dying art form, which is really the furthest thing from the truth.  If you take a good look around, you will see folk music flourishing around the world.

Lula Wiles are a trio of ladies who met at the Berklee College of Music.  They began singing and playing music together, ultimately becoming darlings of Boston's music scene.  I find their music to represent a modernization of the traditional folk form.  The instruments and arrangements are familiar; yet, there is something intangibly alive in the performance and production that grabs the listener in a way that old records do not.

Take a listen to The Pain Of Loving Y…

MAH - The Chemical Brothers

from the single MAH (2019)

MAH is the latest single by big beat electronic pioneers The Chemical Brothers.  The song is everything you should expect to hear playing when your next rave is at full throttle.  Hard, grinding, machine works.  A gigantic bounce to the beat.  An arrangement that optimizes both expansion and compression.

The title is an acronym for Mad As Hell, that iconic line from the 1976 film Network, when a crazed Peter Finch proclaims, "I'm mad as hell, and I am not going to take it any more."

This song resonates with me, as I imagine it resonates with thousands of others, both for the music and the message.  We all seem to be carrying around a bit of anger these days.  So, what are you angry about?

Ageism has me angry.  It starts all of the middle aged people I know who can't seem to find employment in a bustling economy because they are "over qualified."  As if that is a bad thing?  "I am sorry Mr Turntable, we would like to offer you …

Sequence One - TOY

from the album Happy In The Hollow (2019)

Last year, I began playing bass for a band that plays original tunes with a 90s-centric, alternative vibe.  As good fortune would have it, I am also one of the group's principle songwriters.

The odd thing is that for all of the alternative music that I consumed in the 90s, I never played or composed in the genre before.  You see, back in those days, I was busy playing bass in early Americana bands, where Gram Parsons trumped Nirvana every time.

So, for me, this is all like learning to read, write, and think in a new language.

As a result, I find myself devouring new music by alternative bands; studying the sounds and songs and digesting them into my own musical framework.

The new TOY album - Happy In The Hollow - is a feast for a fellow like me.  There is a sensibility to their music that I find delicious.

My favorite track on the album is Sequence One.  The reason is simple: I dig Maxim Barron's bass performance.

Listen to the bouncin…

Whatcha Gonna Do - Ina Forsman

from the album Been Meaning To Tell You (2019)

Ina Forsman is an incredibly gifted blues singer from Helsinki, Finland.  Her impressive range of vocal intonations is like a house of mirrors, offering reflections across the spectrum of great western chartreuses of the past century.

She has a proclivity for vintage American sounds, as is evidenced by Whatcha Gonna Do, the kind of bluesy R&B tune that helps release your inner grooviness.

Check out all of the amazing sounds that she creates.  The funky rasp.  The power.  The hushed snarl. I am blown away.

And then there is the band, perfectly matched to highlight this magnificent vocalist.

Click Here to listen to Whatcha Gonna Do by Ina Forsman.

VTr - The Twilight Sad

from the album It Won/T Be Like this All The Time (2019)

If you are like me, you are a sucker for a great 80s new music vibe.  The pulsing eighth-note grooves, the steady high-hat beats, the tantalizing attacks and sustains of the keyboards, and the abrasive guitar tones all stir something in my core.

Perhaps better than any current band, The Twilight Sad deliver this vibe.  Yet what makes it even more exciting is how their sound still sounds fresh and modern.

VTr is a song that exemplifies this band.  As you listen, try to pick apart the individual instrumental and vocal performances.  Listen to the production and the attention given to crafting perfect 80s tones.  It is magnificent.

Click Here to listen to VTr by The Twilight Sad.

Click Here to read my November 2014 blog post for It Never Was The Same by The Twilight Sad.

Lonesome Fiddle Blues - Jim Coyle

from the album In Between (2019)

Jim Coyle is a Boston musician who has played guitar, bass, and piano for a wild range of Folk, Irish, and Roots bands over the past few decades.  He is a working musician who also writes and records original music.

On his latest album, In Between, he has included eight of his own songs along with a cover version of a traditional-styled, country instrumental.

Lonesome Fiddle Blues is a song that was written by Vassar Clements, a grammy-award winning musician and songwriter who had the distinction of playing fiddle with Flatt & Scruggs on the TV theme song for The Beverley Hillbillies.  Even more notable are his recordings with Bill Monroe, The Grateful Dead, and a host of others.

The original recording of Lonesome Fiddle Blues appeared on The Nitty Gritty Blues Band's classic 1972 album Will The Circle Be Unbroken.  Dozens of other artists have since recorded this tune.  It has also been suggested that Charlie Daniels "pays homage" to …

Weird Ways - Strand of Oaks

from the album Eraserland (2019)

Sometimes, my attraction to a song is driven be a simple line in a lyric that captures my imagination and fascinates me.  Such is the case with Weird Ways, a new song by Indiana-based folk rocker Tim Showalter, who performs under the name Strand of Oaks.

The scene isn't my scene any more

So many of my friends lament how time has changed their old neighborhood and hangouts.  I am often surprised that they are surprised.  Time marches on.  Ob-la-di Ob-la-da.  You can't go home again.

Recently, a singer-songwriter friend was talking about her age and saying "let's face it, I am never going to be the kind of popular that I hoped for."  This irritated me to no end.

Pablo Picasso famously said "Youth has no age."  He also said, "Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist as he grows up."  On how his own career strived into his eighties, Picasso said, "When you come right down to it, all you…

Dylan Thomas - Better Oblivion Community Center

from the album Better Oblivion Community Center (2019)

Every once in a while, a song comes along that strikes at the core of your musical sensibilities.  Dylan Thomas by Better Oblivion Community Center is jut that song for me.

Straight-forward, intelligent pub rock that recalls artists like Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, and Squeeze.  What could be better?

The visual imagery is rich, ranging from a corset wearing Phoebe Bridgers climbing into a corvette to Dylan Thomas dying of a seizure on the floor of NYCs White Horse Tavern.  The lyrics also include four dimensional chess, feel cats, and flowers growing from the ruble.  All of this is delivered over no-nonsense chords, with a tantalizing guitar solo shown in the mix.

The final chorus also resonates with me:

I'm getting used to these dizzy spells
I'm taking a shower at the Bates Motel
I'm getting greedy with this private hell
I'll go it alone, but that's just as well

Somehow, this swirl of a song approximates an amb…

You, I, We (All Together Now) - Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal

from the album Do It Now (2019)

A funky groove makes everything better.

Washing the dogs.
Painting the bathroom.
Cleaning the refrigerator.
Organizing the bills.

Mixing the cocktails.
Chewing the gummies.
Writing the blog posts.
Mixing the mixtapes.

Forgetting your troubles.
Feeling nostalgic.
Getting down with your funky friends.
Living in the moment.

You, I, We (All Together Now).  Dig it!

Click Here to listen to You, I, We (All Together Now) by Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal.

The Wire - Shovels & Rope

from the album By Blood (2019)

In a few weeks, this blog will celebrate its seventh anniversary.  Woo hoo.

One of its great pleasures, that I had never imagined when I started this journey, has been the joy in following the careers of a few fortunate artists, who - against all odds - have risen from obscurity to realize their musical dreams.  They inspire and sustain me.

Shovels & Rope are perhaps the most endearing of the bunch.  From my earliest memory of watching them loading their gear into the back of an East Atlanta bar to play for a few dozen lucky folks, to watching them perform at progressively larger venues, their dedication, work ethic, and decency represent everything my musical heart holds dear.

The Wire is a single released in advance of their forthcoming album - By Blood.  I am particularly struck by the song's chorus:

But I won't fail you when I walk out on the wire
I won't fail you when I walk out on the wire
I won't fail you when I walk out on the wir…

Seventeen - Sharon Van Etten

from the album Remind Me Tomorrow (2019)

Imagine yourself as a songwriter who has taken on the daunting task of composing a song that converses with the person you were, and the place you lived, when you were seventeen.

What would your message be?  Would it be a happy reflection, or perhaps sad?  Would you advise the former you to jump the first train out of town?  Would you give counter-intuitive advise, like party your brains out and have tons of sex?  It is interesting to think about.

Arguably the greatest reflection on this subject is the song At Seventeen by Janis Ian, a soft ballad that laments on the hurt associated with being outcast, and feeling rejected, in a world where you are not pretty enough to be part of the in-crowd.

In her song, Seventeen, Sharon Van Etten takes the counterpoint to Janis Ian, reflecting lovingly on that girl coming of age in NYC.  She embraces the freedom and dreams of youth.  The endless possibility.  She contrasts this with a dose of reality, touch…

Woman - Karen O & Danger Mouse

from the album Lux Prima (2019)

I really dig Karen O.

For over fifteen years, she has repeatedly produced quality recordings that resonate with listeners while never sounding compromised or gimmicky.  She is perpetually evolving and embracing new outlets for her craft.

I also dig her spirit of collaboration, reaching beyond her day job as lead singer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to make music with others.  Her version of Led Zeppelin' Immigrant Song, with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, is mindbendingly good; as were her collaboration on Pinky's Dream with David Lynch and Yo! My Saint with Michael Kiwanuka.

She also has produced incredible music for film, dazzling audiences with her 2009 soundtrack to Where The Wild Things Are and her Oscar-nominated contributions to Spike Jones' movie Her.

Her latest collaboration is an album - Lux Prima - with producer Danger Mouse.  One of the songs off of that record - Woman - has quickly become my first favorite song of 2…

Gallipoli - Beirut

from the forthcoming album Gallipoli (2019)

Last summer, I joined an alternative band as their bass player.  In order to more rapidly define our sound, we began playing cover versions of songs we eased suggested.  All in all, there were about forty of them.

In the process, I found myself leaning away from the harder rocking tunes and embracing songs with a bit more groove in the vibe.  I also found myself board at the concerts my rock friends are always inviting me to.  This began to alienate me from my bandmates and friends.

In addition, late at night when I am studying classic bass lines, I found myself drawn to Motown's James Jamerson and Louis "Thunder Thumb" Johnson of The Brothers Johnson and Michael Jackson fame.  There once was a time when all I studied was John Paul Jones, Jack Bruce, and John Entwistle.

In those days, rockers would have told me that I "wussed out."  But for me, I simply find the groove more interesting, more intoxicating.  It is also …

Ill Wind - Radiohead

from the single Ill Wind (2019)

Ill Wind is a song that appeared as a B-Side on Radiohead's 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool.  The song was little circulated and was neither included on the album nor released to any of the music streaming services, until now.

Last week, Ill Wind was released as a single.  It is a fascinating song.  I really dig how the samba vibe underpins the composition, giving it sexiness and a touch of foreign intrigue.  This offers a counterpoint to all the swirling synthesizers and harmonies.  Thom Yorke's falsetto glides beautifully through this soundscape.  It is lovely.

What inspires me about this song is its story.  This song was sitting on somebodies hard drive gathering virtual dust, when somebody said, "Hey, what do you say we release that song, Ill Wind."  They do, and now people, like us, are digging it.

The story makes me want to take some of the ideas and creations that I have on the proverbial shelf and set them free into the world.  Ma…

Don't You Know - Durand Jones & The Indications

from the album American Love Call (2019)

A lot of times, when I am sitting around with less-than-funky friends, I listen as they bemoan the current state of music for being overly-commercial crap.  I usually lack the energy to all them that they are listening to the wrong music and that, if they took the time to open their mind and their ears, they might find that quite the opposite is true.

The digital age offers musicians with the ability to explore to global lexicon of recorded music and to affordably publish their own recordings to reach their beloved audience.  What could be better than that?

A case in point is Don't You Know by Durand Jones & The Indications.  It is nearly impossible to listen to this song without believing it was recorded by veteran musicians whose heyday past long before many of us were born.

That is not a dig, but rather a compliment.   This song possesses a classic Philadelphia soul sound, full of lush instrumental arrangements and beautiful harmonie…

It Rains Love - Lee Fields & The Expressions

from the album It Rains Love (2019)

There may be no more beautiful an instrument than the human voice.

A soul singer's voice is perhaps the most precious of all.  The mellifluous range of emotions it can evoke with subtle tonal variations has an unequaled ability to reveal inner truths into the human condition.  It is simply magical.

Lee Fields is a master soul singer.  This is evident on his latest single, It Rains Love, a funky, late night soul jam that shimmers with a mid-seventies lovers vibe.

I am particularly drawn to the song's instrumentation.  Each player is laying down something tasty.  Check out how the horns take you back to the sounds of Dionne Warwick singing the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Also, isolate on the old school, funky bass solo that ends the song.  Nothing fancy, just bottom and groove.  I dig it!

Click Here to watch the music video for It Takes Love by Lee Fields & The Expressions.

Click Here to read my June 2014 blog post for Just Can…

Wherever You Go - Dee White

from the album Southern Gentleman (2019)

Every once in a while, I find myself listening in awe to a record's production.  Such is the case with Wherever You Go, the lead track from Dee White's forthcoming debut album.

This record manages to capture the sound of 1970's sun-drenched country in a way that recalls the best of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils.  The sound firmly takes you back to a time when having the windows down and cigarettes in the ashtray was expected.

Imagine yourself driving along a backroad in Alabama, stereo turned-up loud and this song on the radio.  To complete the scene, imagine the cutie-pie sitting next to you, their long hair flowing as their head bounces to the music.

This mastery of production comes from The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and David R. Ferguson.  Ferguson's credits include a grammy award for sound engineering Johnny Cash's American Recordings.

The record's lazy day tone is perfectly suited for Dee White's vocals.  The…

He Don't Burn For Me - The Delines

from the album The Imperial (2019)

When I think of soul music, my first instincts take me to a place that is urban and Black.  It is a sensible reaction when you consider all of those iconic singers, like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield.  They define soul music.

Personally, I have a thing for Southern Soul.  I've made multiple pilgrimages to Stax Studios in Memphis and to Muscle Shoals, Alabama just to breathe the air.  One is urban, the other is rural.  Yet they are both hallowed ground for pure, spine tingling Soul.  I also think about my favorite band in American music, Booker T. & The MGs.  Two guys were black, two guys were white.

Soul Music is universal.

He Don't Burn For Me is a beautifully composed, arranged, and performed song by the Portland, Oregon alternative country band, The Delines.  It is also a shimmering reminder of the magnificence that exists at the intersection of country music and soul.

This song is timeless.  I close my eyes and can …

After All This Time - Michael Chapman

from the forthcoming album True North (2019)

In a world where things seem to exist in increasingly brief increments of time, I find myself drawn closer to people like Michael Chapman.  This English folkster has been releasing an album per year since 1969.  In a few weeks, he will be releasing his fifty-first album.

One of the teaser singles off of this album is a song titled After All This Time, which - at first glance - seemed very appropriate for the day.

The song is as beautifully arranged and performed as any recent folk piece I can recall.  The harmonies, the lead guitar, the petal steel guitar, and Michael Chapman's finely-aged vocals are all magnificent.

The lyrics focus on a long-lasting relationship where the two have grown apart and gone their separate ways.  He sings about this with sadness, lamenting on how the feelings of love have faded away.

Personally, I find the opposite to be true.  When I think that kindred soul in my life, nothing has faded.  After all these ye…

First World Problems - Ian Brown

from the forthcoming album Ripples (2019)

Despite his six lovely solo albums, Ian Brown will always be first thought of as the lead singer for The Stone Roses.

On First World Problems, the lead single from his forthcoming solo album, you find him in top form; his distinctive voice coupled with a late 80s vibe reminiscent of The Farm, EMF, and - needless to say - The Stone Roses.

I really dig the song's bounce, created by a bright drumming and a punchy bass line.  This rhythm section perfectly underpins the Ian Brown's trademark vocals.  Keyboards and guitars fill the soundscape with beautiful restraint.

If you are looking to time warp back to the golden days of Manchester bands, this is your ticket.

Click Here to watch the official video for First World Problems by Ian Brown.