Grooves & Cuts – August 2023
Too many good capsule reviews snuck up on me this month so the John Hartford essay will appear next month.
Sarah McQuaid – The St. Buryan Sessions
Born in Spain this exceptional vocalist & songwriter was first raised in Chicago & now is settled in rural England. Many miles of inspiration. The opener “Sweetness & Pain,” is reminiscent of the acapella tonality of the always appealing & expressive Warwick, England legendary folk singer June Tabor.
Sarah’s in good company with June. Deep feminine heartwarming voices reinforced by a folky classic flavor without sounding preachy, radical, or weighty. Ms. McQuaid has a voice that’s not frail or fragile but with a silken authority & well-infused intonation & phrasing.
Judging from the first 2 songs Sarah doesn’t always need solid support to get across her delicate yet steadfast well-shaped material. This CD came late to me, quite late. But it’s a worthy inclusion since there aren’t many female vocalists who display this full-throated burgundy-rich June Tabor reverence.
Sarah miraculously does. This is like a full-bodied red wine. Not grape juice. You could almost describe Ms. McQuaid’s voice in a wine-tasting manner. She has a full-bodied presentation, fruity flavored but with a woodsy, rural aroma (“The Sun Goes On Rising”). The instrumentation when spare is fortified.
With her full-throated Tabor style of sinewy strength, Sarah sculpts a wonderous middle-of-the-road lounge singer style with the classic “Autumn Leaves.” She excels in the ballad genre & sounds as if she would’ve been an ideal partner for the now-late Tony Bennett. The addition of foreign lyrics is a nice, classy touch.
Produced by Martin Stansbury the 15-cut The St. Buryan Sessions is Sarah’s 5th — available now. (Released Oct. 2021-Shovel & A Spade Records). It was recorded “live” with no audience warts & all at the St. Buryan Church in Cornwall, England (2020).
How does this set qualify as Americana? This is the music brought from Great Britain hundreds of years ago & re-shaped traditionally in Appalachia & other rural mountain states into what became the hybrid imports of folk music, country, blues, roots & thus Americana music. This is the seed of country/folk as rooted in America’s wilderness. Ms. MacQuaid performs it stripped back in an assortment of melodies as many Appalachian artists & settlers have & quite impressively.
Highlights – “Sweetness & Pain,” “The Sun Goes On Rising” “If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous,” “Charlie’s Gone Home,” “What Are We Going To Do?” “Autumn Leaves,” “In Derby Cathedral,” “The Day of Wrath, That Day” & the wonderfully lyrical “Last Song.”
Musicians – Sarah (Custom acoustic guitars/electric guitar/floor-tom/Yamaha Concert Grand piano/lead vocal).
Color image courtesy of Joerg Detering. CD @ https://sarahmcquaid.bandcamp.com/album/the-st-buryan-sessions & https://sarahmcquaid.com/
Tell Everybody! – 21st Century Juke Joint Blues
This 12-cut, 44-minute anthology was produced by Grammy winner Dan Auerbach (vocals/electric guitar/bass/percussion). It isn’t a compilation of vintage juke joint blues from decades ago, but an accumulation of newly recorded & exclusive recordings made at Easy Eye Sound in Nashville. It does include some old masters with some excellent young blood who explore their acoustic blues oats & blues rock with a tang.
There’s a variety of blues styles from North Mississippi, Louisiana, Ohio, Detroit, Kentucky & L.A on Tell Everybody! – 21st Century Juke Joint Blues (Dropped Aug 11-Easy Eye Sound) which leads off with “Coal Black Mattie,” by RL Boyce (vocals/electric guitar). Slinky, predatory guitar with Boyce’s near John Lee Hooker vocal. Effective. RL has a haunting style — no wonder he was a Grammy-nominated performer. Joining RL are Sam Bacco (percussion), Kenny Brown & Dan Auerbach (electric guitar), Eric Deaton (bass) & Adam Schreiber (drums/percussion).
Nice introduction to a wild assortment. The title track “Tell Everybody,” bubbles up as an original tune with the exuberant vocals of 69-year-old Louisiana bluesman Robert Finley. Raw, gritty with blues-infused tonality. Sounds like the infancy of Sly & the Family Stone or Graham Central Station. They both had this nice growl to their vocal showcase in a blues groove with a slight funk weave & propellants. Nice recipe.
Opening with a similar “On the Road Again,” groove from Canned Heat’s “Every Chance I Get (I Want You In the Flesh)” is dusted off with the discernable vocal groove. Reinvented with style & superbly performed by Dan Auerbach’s reliable blues wranglers. A real treat that comes to the surface like apples in a barrel is The Black Keys on “No Lovin’” which sounds a little like the laid-back relaxed vocals you’d find with J.J. Cale.
“Daughter of Zion,” follows & features 3 lead guitars. Original lead & acoustic guitarist/vocalist for the James Gang the late Glenn Schwartz (before Joe Walsh) is joined by Joe Walsh & Dan Auerbach. With exemplary guitar interplay that sparkles like fireworks raining down in the dark. Glenn’s lead vocal is in that vintage James Gang circuitry too. Memory Lane spread out with rainbow oil stains on a rain-slicked pavement.
What’s surprising about this showcase is the lack of bombastic showboating lead guitar. Instead, it’s all done with gratification. Solo spots are focused leads, inspired, heartfelt & never stinging or over-powering. Instead of guitar-slinging, they’re guitar-playing.
Recorded in Nashville, TN the packaging is a delightful illustration. The music’s not slap-dash with wild jams & over-ripe tunes. Each is performed with authority & while not always vintage does exude a relevant antiquity. They all prove one thing: the blues are alive & well in the 21st Century.
Highlights – “Coal Black Mattie,” “Tell Everybody,” “Every Chance I Get (I Want You In the Flesh),” “Anything You Need,” “Willow Witchin’,” “No Lovin” & “Daughter of Zion.”
Additional Musicians – Kinney Kimbrough, Gene Chrisman, Homer Steinweiss, Patrick Carney & Richard Swift (drums), Christy Johnson (bgv), Libby DeCamp (dobro), Russ Fahl & Billy Sanford (electric guitar), Dave Roe & Nick Movshon (bass), Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Gabe Carter & Leo Bud Welch (vocals/electric guitar), Nat Myers (dobro/vocals) & Leon Michaels (organ/Hammond B3).
Color image of Walsh, Schwartz & Auerbach courtesy of Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella.CD @ Amazon + https://easyeyesound.bandcamp.com/album/tell-everybody-21st-century-juke-joint-blues-from-easy-eye-sound
Christian Parker – Sweethearts
This set’s interesting with a traditional country voice in NY-based musician Christian Parker. He performs songs like Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” with gusto & charm. His voice has a character seldom heard in modern country circles. Many songs he reinvents are in tribute to The Byrds’ iconic LP “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.”
Some may say why go to the trouble but what’s honest is that many younger ears have never heard that album & Christian is reintroducing it with a fresh approach.
There are 14 cuts on his Sweethearts (Dropped August 18–Independent) album. The original 11 nuggets perceptively & musically from the Byrds LP. There are 3 added songs not on the original. I feel Christian is true to the original Byrds LP. He’s captured the authentic country feel they tried to catch with their own 1968 spirit. Not an easy attempt. Many of the players on that original album were masterful. Gram Parsons, Roger McGuinn, John Hartford, Chris Hillman, Clarence White, Roy Huskey & Barry Goldberg.
Each tune is rendered with finely polished performances & they’re done seamlessly. Exemplary vocals with rich rural-ese throughout the music.
Highlights – “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “The Christian Life,” “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” “You’re Still On My Mind,” “Hickory Wind,” “Life In Prison,” “A Satisfied Mind” & “Drugstore Truck Drivin’ Man.”
Musicians – 2 original musicians featured: Earl Ball (pianist) & Jaydee Maness (pedal steel guitar).
Rachael Kilgour – My Father Loved Me
This is Duluth, MN indie singer-songwriter’s 4th LP. Produced by JUNO award-winning songwriter Rose Cousins in Canada it explores lovingly through every song a tribute to her Southern Ontario father through his daughter’s eyes. She explores questions of identity, inheritance, grief & the sacrifices of an ordinary working man’s life in an indifferent world who had his own story & ghosts.
I’ve often sat next to strangers on park benches, beside them on bus trips & I’d introduce myself as a writer seeking stories. I wanted to know if they could tell me something about themselves. Who they became, where they were going, where they’d been long ago, who they’d been in their youth, what they regretted & were now thankful for. It was eye-opening.
It was miraculous how many original, creative & endearing tales are locked up in stranger’s memories. They’re not writers, or storytellers & many of them thanked me for allowing their lives to come out. They’re staring into space as they recollected confirmed to me – it was nothing but the truth.
This is Rachael Kilgour. But she did it for someone she knew, lived with & loved. Some average lives are not “average.” With the diagnosis that her father had dementia Kilgour pieced together a “journal of music” to celebrate his life. The 10-track My Father Loved Me (Drops Sept 22-Independent).
The title song is painfully good with the chilling poignancy wrung out of Rachael’s voice like every drop of water from a washcloth. Her sincerity has Zephyrus overtones that are breezy through each line. Quite impressive as she follows it in “Family Secrets,” — equally compelling. Ms. Kilgour’s vocals aren’t as ethereal as Sarah McLachlan’s, as wildly embellished as Kate Bush’s. But a reverential departure from simple balladry. An intuitive singer with excellent narrative skills. She takes a rural-type short story (her Dad’s life) & allows it to follow a soulful route that meditates on his time on this earth.
No one’s perfect but when you can find the spirit of a person through their deeds & words that will make your peace. This isn’t an easy set to cruise through & it’s similar to the poignancy in Cindy Bullen’s “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth.” An LP made years ago about the death of her 11-year-old daughter from cancer. Great personal works never are easy. “Ontario,” is such. It’s absorbing an exceptional work. May even be one of the best of 2023.
Highlights – “My Father Loved Me,” “Dad Worked Hard,” “Ontario,” “Family Secrets,” “Bobby” & “The Smell of Autumn Leaves.”
Musicians – Dean Drouillard (electric guitar), Joshua Van Tassel (percussion/synth) & Devon Henderson (bass)
Color image courtesy of Sara Pajunen. A new website is being constructed. CD @ https://blackoakartists.com/artist/rachael-kilgour/
Jesse Daniel Edwards – Violensia
Singing in a vocal tone typical of modern-day singers rather than any past performers Jesse Daniel Edwards does craft a warm approach to his repertoire though he comes late to this genre of music. No matter – today he manages to kick out briskly on several beginning with “Backyard Party.” The Southern California native didn’t make it the easy way but through persistent busking. The “sound” of his experience is emblazoned in his vocal tone — smooth yet mildly aggressive. Think Tom Petty crossed with Jim Morrison.
The 10-cut Violensia (Dropped June 23–Cavity Search Records) produced by Joe Chiccarelli is in a vein of alternative rock that runs through Jesse’s material. The structure on many sprouts from a rootsy soil. There’s variety in his musical endeavor & instrumental beauty in “Interlude.” A piano break halfway through his collection is deeply resounding since that’s what a grand piano offers when played with vigor.
“Matches & Gasoline,” is heavy-duty lifting. Loose & crazy in application but gets the slow blood moving beneath the flesh. New twists to the older ideas of rock. This CD has lots of meat on its bones & a little too much barbecue basting on some (“Everything Makes You Sick”). But the flavor is tangy. The music’s often abrasive, but the rough edges are smoothed over with Jesse’s vocal expertise, the cutting spirited guitars & finely rendered piano.
Highlights – “Backyard Party,” “Dream Where You Can’t Wake Up,” “Interluude” (sic) & “Matches & Gasoline.”
Color image courtesy of Jesse’s website. CD music samples @ Bandcamp & https://www.jessedanieledwards.net/
Robby Vee – Double Spin
The last name is a tip-off that baby boomers may recognize. Robby’s the son of the late 60s pop-idol Bobby Vee (Velline) who had 38 Billboard charted hits & 6 gold records. A far better artist than many give him credit for. Bob Dylan played piano in Vee’s early band (1959) & Dylan had lots of respect for Vee. He even acknowledged Bobby during a live performance. Vee issued lots of pop songs but also some Americana-oriented albums: “Gates, Grills & Railings,” “Nothin’ Like a Sunny Day,” & his last “The Adobe Sessions.” But this is Robby Vee’s moment in the spotlight & deservedly so. He carries on the earlier tradition with retro & twang.
The CD I have doesn’t detail who the 13 songs were written by. But I’ve enjoyed the offspring of many successful singers. Lisa Marie Presley was not Elvis, but she had her punky charm. Hank Williams, Jr. is a success but not necessarily in the tradition of his Dad. Roy Orbison’s son sings spookily almost like his father. Julian Lennon is a viable artist who also sounds a little too much like John. Julian has good songs but just isn’t as challenging or inventive as his Dad. Big shoes to fill.
So, if the acorn doesn’t fall too far from the tree – Robby Vee may have the pop instincts his father had & it is evident on Double Spin (Dropped June 9–Paramour Records). Produced by Robby with Jeff Bjork, Vee’s voice isn’t as warmly distinctive as Bobby Vee but what he possesses is a genuine rockabilly individuality.
He doesn’t sound like other rockabilly artists. No Robert Gordon or Brian Setzer but a more serious Buddy Holly flavor. He’s following more in the footsteps of two other “sons” – Rocky & Billy Burnette. The songs in this collection are sturdy. It doesn’t always render his tunes as oldies. They have a freshness like “Monsson Sunset,” which is arranged with some incisive sounds. Typical of more serious songs performed by Jan & Dean (“A Surfer’s Dream”) than their commercial fare.
Rockabilly with strings? Well, this Vee adds them on “Before Majesty,” a slow-going tune that’s melodic. This song actually sounds like Bobby Vee. When Robby sings slowly the tonality & North Dakota intonation seeps through richly.
Dipping into an early Bobby Vee style Robby injects a “Love Supreme” with his Dad’s magic. I’m saying that as a compliment because Bobby Vee was an excellent stylist & Robby has some of that juice naturally. What sounds like deep-toned saxes is a nice touch, but they may be keyboards.
“Perfume” starts off ala a classic riff from “Run To Him,” as if Robby singing a sequel. On this cut, he sounds even more vintage Bobby Vee, but he sounds good. It’s not an imitation just a well-captured tonality obviously inherited. Good song.
With songs like “Song of Songs,” Robby seems to tap into the direction his dad tried to muster with the more serious “The Adobe Sessions.” More rootsy, Americana & the addition of the accordion & the clarity of the recording is commendable. This is no oldie show – this takes an early successful 60s artist & urges his heritage. Exceptional style. This is a well-disciplined performer with class. The tunes aren’t knock-offs but inspired slices of the Vee sound resurrected to the modern day.
“Tucson Girl,” was one of the last songs written & recorded by Bobby with his family – it appears on his last LP The Adobe Sessions (2014). This version by Robby is equally good.
Highlights – “Monsoon Sunset,” “Before Majesty,” “Love Supreme,” “Perfume” “Song of Songs,” “Calianna’s Lullaby,” “Blue Moon Blues,” “Tucson Girl,” “Dashboard Jesus,” “Wanna Dance” & a bonus cut “Good Morning.”
Color image courtesy of Robby’s website. The 44-minute CD @ Amazon + https://www.robbyvee.net/
The Weber Brothers – In the Tangled Web
This one’s edgier than average with a bluesy chomp layered nicely. “Top of My List,” opens with vocal aggression but the melody’s undercurrent drives. The manifestation is somewhere between the late Ronnie Hawkins & Long John Baldry.
With “Shake It Up,” it’s a fairly good workout musically. The songs by the numbers jam has repetitive cliché lyrics so if we go for the groove — this is a solid entry. If we go for skill & great songwriting this is elementary. They do have the mojo for an electrifying performance but what most musicians skip over is the sameness of the material. This one’s been done to death. Done well, but — done to death. Yet, The Weber Brothers are redeemed quickly with “I Just Want Your Love.”
Despite being typical this is laid out with a no-frills arrangement mindful of The Band’s more soulful moments. The five Weber Brothers skewer the genre & fill it with sassiness, bluesy incisors & all the essentials to give it some bite. This one is a sno-cone of a song with a wild Paul McCartney wail to boot.
The Weber Brothers aren’t greenhorns. They’ve been around the barn a few times. This In the Tangled Web – The Water Street Trilogy – Part 2 (Dropped July 21-Independent) is their 16th while their previous critically acclaimed LP “The Water Street Trilogy” was the first (Nov 2022). A 3rd chapter is coming.
All 11 are originals produced by The Weber Brothers with James McKenty (Blue Rodeo) in Ontario. The set’s primarily pure unadulterated R&R mixed with elements from the inception of the genre to the modern day. The band’s tendrils are many & unravel in a musical “miracle grow” genre. There’s a distinctive Americana kick in this bowl. Their ability to dabble with cliched lyrics added to potent melodies is the hidden spike. And when they do this successfully it’s their expertise & skill that becomes evident.
There’s a splash of a heavy-man UK band Mammoth led by Nicky Moore (“All The Days”) in some of The Weber Brothers’ loftier tunes. Particularly in the exceptional balladry (“In the Tangled Web” & “Don’t Go Daddy”). The latter shows good diversification tethered to an Asian spirit with a wicked progression. In “Don’t Go Daddy,” has a superb, beautiful John Prine touch.
People who still search for the descendants of The Who, The Band, Rolling Stones & Deep Purple don’t have to look far – there’s redeeming value in The Weber Brothers. There’s no starch in their BVDs. They ain’t wannabes that’s for sure.
Highlights – “Top of My List,” “I Just Want Your Love,” “Mostly Stable,” “Turn On Love,” “In the Tangled Web,” “Love Yourself,” “Don’t Go Daddy,” the faithful “A Different Side of Me,” “Withdrawal” & the more gospel-flavored “Ante Up.”
Musicians – Ryan Weber (vocals/bass), Sam Weber (vocals), Marcus Browne (drums), Rico Browne (multi-instrumentalist) & Emily Burgess (guitars).
Photography courtesy of Lance Anderson. The 51-minute CD @ Bandcamp + https://weberbrothers.com/
Wild Rabbit Salad – Postcard From Houston
This 9-cut CD deserved better artwork since the performance between Marietta (vocals) & Bucky Roebuck (guitar/vocals) is quite original & has an individuality that’s captivating. The Houston, Texas-based duo is 3 years in the making. Postcard From Houston (Dropped Sept 1–Independent) with its sharp chiming guitars & lead-off track “Love Child” is an ear-tugger.
Marietta has a peculiar vocal somewhat in the tradition of Pal Shazar crossed with Golden-Carillo’s Annie Golden. But it’s that peculiarity that makes this music distinctive since the material is not corny, novelty-oriented, or elementary. It’s all an exercise in originality. They succeed right down to the basic performance that languishes in interesting arrangements & snazzy duetting.
The tunes recorded in Houston dip generously into a retro-sounding political folky expose. “Politician,” generalizes nicely & it doesn’t finger-point at any one politician but all. The typical clunky early 60s lead guitar joined by a Dylan-like harmonica gives the song charm & the tambourine elevates it to the Greenwich Village basement coffee house no-frills showcase. Cool baby.
This isn’t Steve & Edie it isn’t even Sonny & Cher, but it could be regarded slightly as a country-folk inception of Ian & Sylvia, or Richard & Mimi Farina. “No Stone Unturned,” features a lovely melody sung by Bucky & adds a banjo pluck that gives it individuality. This is a well-nourished tune. The addition of Marietta’s vocal as the song progresses adds the necessary class to an otherwise basic southern-fried folky tale.
“Let’s Get Away From It All” is soaked in Marietta’s glorious vocals. This tune features fiddling to maintain its big band barn dance structure & the arrangement offers it wrapped in an antique package. The jewel is “It’s Saturday Night Til’ The Sun Comes Up.” A genuine perfect novelty tune that doesn’t sink into campiness. It’s a tune with well-connected lyrics supported by an old-fashioned organ struck hard by spiky lead guitar lines. The contrast is invigorating. Bucky sings “The Beast,” at the conclusion with phrasing & tone similar to J. Quite impressive.
Highlights – “Love Child,” “Wandering Heart,” “Politician,” “No Stone Unturned,” “Let’s Get Away From It All,” “It’s Saturday Night Til The Sun Comes Up” & “The Beast.”
Musicians – Willie Favero (bass), Howard Nampkin (fiddle), Steve Candelari & Marty Naul (drums).
Sepia image courtesy of GMR Publishing & their website gallery. The 30-minute CD @ https://wildrabbitsalad.com/
C. Daniel Boling – New Old Friends – Guest singer Tom Paxton
This is Daniel’s 9th & he’s firmly entrenched in the traditional folk aesthetic with a perfectly suited voice for New Old Friends (Released Summer 2023–Berkalin Records). It features legendary folk artist Tom Paxton who co-wrote all of the 15 folk rich songs, with C. Daniel and the addition of Noel Paul Stookey as a third writer on one.
The 45-minute set includes Paxton’s vocals on 5 songs & it was recorded in Sante Fe, New Mexico by Jono Manson (vocals/tenor guitar). The music has a nostalgic curve since they’re written from the perspective of an elder statesman. There’s no lameness, pontificating, or sermonizing. It’s all kept respectfully light. Reminiscing plays a role & C. Daniel’s vocals are always sincere.
The benefit of being an older singer is that the subjects & topics become wider in range. An actor’s roles actually grow slimmer since age is evident but not so in the hands that guide a pen or sing. “How Did You Know?” could easily be tweaked for a younger singer but it’s most appropriate for a troubadour like C. Daniel Boling (vocals/guitar) who certainly is a good interpreter.
There are some silly folk songs (“Bear Spray & Barbwire,” “The Keys”) but that’s forgivable, that’s why they’re folk songs. “The Keys,” sounds like something the late Harry Chapin would’ve done. It certainly has his touch & Mr. Boling sings it with that Chapin tonality. The Hee-Haw show comes with “My Hick Pickup,” another basic novelty song but with such fiery banjo picking & John Hartford-type vocal dynamic, the tune is impressive & humorous. Good performance.
There are some sleepers but for the most part, Boling indulges his passion for folk music & succeeds as an entertaining singer with style & tradition. Next time out I’d like Boling to tackle Tom Paxton’s classic “Mr. Blue.”
Highlights – “Old Friends,” (with Tom), “How Did You Know?” “The Keys,” “My Hick Pickup,” “We Can Still Waltz,” (written with Noel Paul Stookey), “Friendless Heart,” “The Quiet Ones,” “This Town Has No Café” (with Tom) & “Turn The Corner” (with Tom).
Musicians – Jeff Scoggins (banjo), Jon Gagan (upright bass), Char Rothschild (melodica/accordion/tin whistle), Kelly Mulhollan (mandolin/upright bass), Michael Handler (harmonica), Jason Crosby (piano), John Egenes (dobro) & Bill Ward (piano).
Color image courtesy of C. Daniel’s website gallery. CD @ https://danielboling.com/
David Bennett Cohen – Seems Like a Good Time For the Blues
What’s interesting is that the handsome grandfatherly man who graces this showcase was once a keyboardist for Country Joe & the Fish. You see kids, grandpa was cool…and you’ll never be that cool.
While these blues aren’t as gnarling as John Lee Hooker, eccentric as John Mayall, or electrifying as Stevie Ray Vaughn they do indulge a groove & the piano tinkling is energetic & innovative. There are some low spots but when David Bennett Cohen lassos a tune with his veteran precision it’s locked in like snap-on tools. “Neighbors,” is one such groove.
A little silly in inception but solid in conception. Since what he’s singing about is quite true. Cohen’s vocals are a little laid back for a blues vocalist but what he manages he does with expertise. A genuine blues crooner. And he’s wonderful.
The self-produced 10-track Seems Like a Good Time For the Blues (Drops October 2023-Independent) has its jewels. The title track is delicate, but Cohen’s vocals are sincere & melancholy. Arthur Neilson’s lead guitar — warmly bluesy lays out a beautiful solo. Effective stuff with little flamboyance.
The band’s tight behind Cohen. If you listen closely his piano pieces throughout many of these blues tunes is exceptional. Over the years he’s played with Mick Taylor, Hubert Sumlin, Tim Hardin, Eric Anderson, Johnny Winter, Buddy Miles, Huey Lewis & the late Michael Bloomfield. To keep it simple, he has played with the cream of the genre. A good ivory player & still is.
The tunes are not radical or edgy because those days served musicians like David well but now it’s a different sensibility. It requires a more mature competence, instead of a high flame a low flame that’s still hot. The piano runs are a consistent glow & though the subjects/lyrics are more light-hearted Cohen gets his tidy pieces across fluently. His musical style would suit Van Morrison quite well.
So, aside from the dynamic piano, lucid songs the only weak element is David’s vocals. He sings well but his voice is more middle-of-the-road/easy listening (“Growing Old”) than blues. On tunes like “Cookin’ In the Kitchen,” David does imbue each word with a delicate blues stripe. Blues usually doesn’t talk about food, unless it’s about crawfish & spicy comparisons to women.
Though we’re not expecting Roy Buchanan, B.B. King, or Van Morrison this set does have many formidable spots that feature a saveur of blues piano, persuasive vocals, upbeat melodies with some humor on the cusp of real blues (“Walking Around the City”). While the lyrics are a bit clever they succumb to way too many syllables.
For just appreciating Cohen’s piano ingenuity “Little Mo,” & “Flyin’ High” feature superb runs though still, the lyrics can be juvenile. The final cut “Flyin’ High,” is actually one of the best. Cohen gives this one character. If you need one justification for this LP this is the gold ring. This flexes muscles.
Highlights – “Neighbors,” “Cookin’ In the Kitchen,” “Seems Like a Good Time For the Blues,” “Little Mo” & “Flyin’ High.”
Musicians – DBC (piano/vocals/acoustic guitar), Mike Rodbard (drums), Tim Tindall (bass), Arthur Neilson (lead guitar) & Fred Walcott & Eddie Torres (congas).
Color image courtesy of Joseph A. Rosen. The 42-minute CD @ Amazon & http://www.davidbennettcohen.com/index.html
Lady Psychiatrist’s Booth – Four Research Porpoises Only
Another unorthodox collection. Interesting from the start since each singer is supposed to be one of 4 female patients disclosing their symptoms through each song to a psychiatrist. “Hell In Michelle,” is the opener with fascinating female vocals & percussion.
Their harmony vocals slide into a Kate Bush fog as it crosses over into 1930s field recording territory. Quite cool from a traditional stature. Their lyrical structure & singing on “Noelle,” is similar to The Nails’ underground classic “88 Lines About 44 Women.” Vocalist Ashley E. Norton has a voice that borders without a flinch between sexy, seductive, devilish & tempting. Yow-wee. Especially when she’s accompanied by That Girl’s creepy violin anchored in a Brecht-Weill carnival on the doomsday band.
The tune is also mindful of a more haunting, dark “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. Why? Because it works. If Ms. Norton’s voice was a little more deviant she’d be perfect for hell’s dance band The Tiger Lillies (“Hell”).
Produced by Johnny Garcia the 11-cut Four Research Porpoises Only (Drops Sept 29–Independent) is nothing short of an entertaining excursion. Their humor is good but when they go serious they’re chemistry smokes. The only drawback: they hover over serious dark tunes that have a dark sense of humor & others are commercially candy-coated pop sensibilities (“When I Grow Up”). It would’ve been better if she used the Jack Nicholson attitude: The Joker in the original Batman film when he looked around the room & delivered an ominous “wait till they get a load of me…” (when I grow up).
But the music’s anchored solidly anyway in a Brecht-Weill/Tiger Lillies shape & as expansive as Tom Waits with the charged “Cold Dead Body.” Excellent. All delivered with the lively accordion textures lying about in the violin’s unfurnished room. Ashley E. Norton is consistently superb (if that indeed is her vocal). She knows how to twist vowels in her lyrics. She has a vaudeville/burlesque/dancehall singer’s sensibility. Something Deaf School’s Bette Bright embraced adoringly in their classic songs (“All Queued Up,” “Hi Jo Hi” & “What a Way To End It All).
Lady Psychiatrist’s Booth’s upbeat tunes are more entertainment than darkness. “Why He’s Gone,” is good showtune stuff. It allows the other ladies to trade vocals & each has a unique attraction. This is almost venturing into The Roches’ territory. But even the silliness of kazoos adds color to the showcase. It may be as corny as the “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better,” show tune but that’s what made those silly Broadway songs endearing. The LP starts with the darker, funnier tunes but as it progresses the band’s songs get deeper. More serious. Are delivered with exceptional girl-group thrust (The Shangri-Las) impressively.
Highlights – “Hell In Michelle,” “Noelle,” “Cold Dead Body,” “Why He’s Gone,” “Spanish Café,” “Slow Train To Memphis,” “That Girl” & “Glad He’s Gone.”
Musicians – Ashley E. Norton (vocals/acoustic guitar), Amanda Albini (drums/percussion/chains/vocals), Marcia Claire (bass/vocals), That Girl (violin/mandolin/vocals), Johnny Garcia (acoustic & electric guitar) & Laura Hall (piano/accordion).
Color image courtesy of their website & Hemifran. CD @ https://www.hemifran.com/artist/Lady%20Psychiatrist%E2%80%99s%20Booth/ & https://www.ladypsychiatristsbooth.com/
Cory Walker – School Project
This set is more traditionally embedded & I already find Cory (a member of the Nashville-based East Nash Grass band) somewhat in an early John Hartford mold. He plays banjo exceptionally well & resophonic guitar. The majority of songs were sung by others & no matter, the traditional thread runs through these tunes genuinely.
“Far Away Again,” features lead vocals by Tim O’Brien & all flows along gently like a cold rushing stream. Two Dylan covers decorate the landscape of this 10-track (“Nashville Skyline,” & “One Too Many Mornings”) with lead vocals by Rodney Dillard.
The CD is basically built on melodies supported by traditional instruments mandolin, fiddle, bass, harmony vocals & consistently faithful performances. Some tunes are instrumentals & due to their arrangements are rendered with entirely new faces — nearly unrecognizable.
Produced by Florida native Cory Walker the production of School Project (Dropped Sept 8–Mountain Fever Records) may be more for aficionados but even the newly introduced will marvel at the proficiency of the musicianship & creativity.
I guess what will be peculiar to the uninitiated in this fine musical display is the corniness of the Homer & Jethro banjo & fiddle feel (The Beverly Hillbillies) but they’ll forget the darker overtones of Flatt & Scruggs’ “Deliverance.” Music which is basically from the same fountain. To suggest that Cory & his cohorts don’t play with fiery gusto would be an understatement. John Hartford would like this guy.
Is this going to fly up the pop charts? Of course not. Are bluegrass addicts going to be enthralled? Possibly. The performances on this first LP by Cory Walker are all loose. Loose in their presentation but tight in their skill. And that alone is expertise. Had he lived I could see Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead calling Cory up for a jam. His spirit is genuinely faithful to the genre. Maybe you have to be born to it. Cory has a primitive spirit in his fingers & articulation in his music.
Highlights – “Jamboree,” “Far Away Again,” “Nashville Skyline,” “One Too Many Mornings,” “Javelina Breakdown” & “Tried To Ruin My Name.”
Musicians – Cory (banjo/resophonic guitar), Tim O’Brien & Rodney Dillard (lead vocals/guitar), Jake Stargel & David Grier (guitars), Mike Compton, Jarrod Walker & Harry Clark (mandolins), Billy Contreras, Bryan McDowell & Nate Leath (fiddles), Dennis Crouch, Jeff Picker, Geoff Sanders (basses), Gaven Largent & Herb Pedersen (resophonic guitars), Sierra Ferrell (lead vocals on “Tried To Ruin My Name”) & Audrey MacAlpine (harmony vocals).
CD cover photography courtesy of Scott Simontacchi. The 32-minute CD @ https://mountainfever.com/cory-walker-far-away-again/
Safari Season – forevermoor
This third CD for the Swedish duo that began in 1997 is high-test melodic rock with solid vocals. Lars Ryen (lead & bgv/keyboards) & Anders Lindgren (producer/guitar/keyboard/percussion/bgv) offer a new 11-track eclectic pop-oriented collection forevermoor (Dropped Sept 8–Paraply Records/Beat Goes On/Hemifran) full of attractive songs sung with excellence, intelligence that possesses a decorous vibe.
Together the duo maintains a tight showcase with acoustic guitars & at times heavenly harmonious vocals (“Silver Stream Golden Dream”). It’s almost as if this is an all-male equivalent of an edgier Abba –since the melodies are there, the vocalizing’s bright & the music is radiant (“Darkness Queen”).
What’s impressive is that many musical ideas are short & sweet. No meandering into an instrumentation solo nether land. Each piece is imaginative & each song swells like a balloon being blown up & set free with helium to soar high. And they do. The most intense entries are “Nowhere On the Run,” with its acoustic guitars & rhythm punch of Supertramp & late 70s new wave band New Muzik (“Living By Numbers”). New Muzik especially on the tune “A New Future,” where there’s a poignant narration similar to New Muzik’s classic “Islands.” Quite cool.
The other is “Forevermoor,” — simply addictive. The wonderful “Peaceful,” features a muted trumpet & haunting melody. The duo also slightly resemble the intense late 70s band The Beaver Brothers (“Ventriloquisms” LP) who added a little more bombastic orchestration to their similar pop-aggregation. The Safari Season tunes are concise, catchy, hook-laden & smart. Always smart.
Highlights – “Running Free,” “Silver Stream Golden Dream,” “Nowhere On the Run,” “Peaceful,” “This Gentle Night,” “Darkness Queen,” “A New Future” & “Forevermoor.”
Musicians – Daniel Gullo (bass/drums/keys/guitar), Ylva Lindgren, Robert Warn, Rebecka Beran & Ulf Akermo (background vocals), Magnus Berg (trumpet), Erwin Schoonderwaldt, Lars Borgstrom, Andreas Strombergsson & Joans Bergholm (strings), Graig Lindgren (bass), Mattias Fabian (recorder) & Lars Borgstrom (string arrangements).
Hank Woji – Highways, Gamblers Devils & Dreams – Double Album
This old-school folk exploration is exemplary. The Texas-based Hank Woji fills his songs with narratives, stories & lots of musical diversification. It’s a hot stew of Tex-Mex, Dixieland, middle-of-the-road listening balladry & spirituals with old-fashioned traditional country & western mixtures.
The double-set features ambitious performances by Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Jaimee Harris & Bill Kirchen among others. The songs are typical personal reflections on life with Americana themes both factual & mythic. There’s little here that is hokey, novelty-oriented or simplistic. Not all are as emblematic of the trek but tunes like “Don’t Look Back,” are sung with sincerity.
It’s true at times a fairly good double-CD would’ve been a far better single one. This set’s best tunes are on disc one. Disc 2 has varied excellence instrumentality but the songs are more derivative compared to the creative competence of Disc 1. Maybe Hank just wanted to have some fun.
The tunes display a steady stream of Steve Earle country-rock flavors, Townes van Zandt sensitivity & Woody Guthrie ruralness. There’s something here to remind a listener of many past classics. It’s a carefully crafted collection assembled on the double Highways, Gamblers Devils & Dreams – (Dropped Sept 1-Independent). Played with expertise & self-produced by Hank (vocals/electric + 6 & 12-string acoustic guitars/6-string classical guitar/5 & 6-string banjo/harmonica/Surdo/Cabasa/Wooden Bowl).
The package is designed in warm natural pastel colors to maintain an authentic aesthetic. The images reflect the music enclosed. It’s annotated with musician details on each tune in a folded-down insert.
Hank keeps it genuine throughout & succeeds with tunes like “I’ll Be Here In the Morning,” reminiscent of the cross-breeding of The Band & The Hooters. But “Corporations Are People,” swerves into Pete Seeger’s territory. The performative drive taps the brakes a bit. The songs were recorded everywhere from Texas, Florida, NJ, Georgia, Tennessee, California, Illinois & Minnesota. What’s surprising is the sound is consistent in each song. With Bruce Springsteen’s “Land of Hope & Dreams,” Hank’s vocals resemble the late folk-rock singer-songwriter John Stewart in his intonation & phrasing. Nicely done.
What Hank has done beyond just singing songs is that he’s conceptualized the tales in some respects that were not originally related but are now. It’s a painting, it’s a quilt, a mosaic of music & lyrics that have become in Hank’s hands a short story about what America should be. Songs as diverse as Townes van Zandt, Jimmy Cliff, Woody Guthrie & Bruce Springsteen all woven in with Hank’s originals provide a tasty jambalaya of music.
There’s little in the way of preaching, pontificating, or soap-box lecturing. There are a few asides but many songs are just obligatory classics & honorable originals.
Highlights – CD #1: “Don’t Look Back,” “I Ain’t Got No Home,” “I’m Gonna Hit the Number,” “I’ll Be Here In the Morning,” “I Don’t Like the Rain” & “Land of Hope & Dreams.” CD #2: “On Our Way Back Home,” “Can’t Happen Here,” “The Devil’s At the Door” “Peace Unto You” & “I Won’t Be Drinkin’.”
Musicians – Jimmy Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock (lead vocals), Kristin DeWitt, Ken Gaines, Jaimee Harris, Erin Lee Cortez, Nathan Greaux, La’Saydra S., George Chase, Ryan Gabbart, James Metcalfe, Doug Wright, Vincent Powell, Susan Herndon, (harmony vocals), George Powell (harmony vocals & vocal arrangements), Thomas Helton (electric bass guitar/double bass/Sousaphone), Michael Mizma (drums/snare drum/woodblock/tambourine), Rob Pastore (pedal steel guitar), Karen Mueller (autoharp/mandolin), Mark Lewis (fiddle/vocals), Radoslav Lorkovic (accordion/piano/Hammond B3/), Ted Arbogast (6-string electric guitar/harmony vocals), Marco Fuchs (congas/triangle/Guiro), Ellen Melissa Story (mandolin), David C. Johnson (Wurlitzer electric piano/harmony vocals), Houston Thunderstorm (thunder & rain), Jeff Duncan (fiddle) & Tommy Labella (soprano & tenor saxes), Morris Moon (tenor banjo/bgv), Matt Levine (5-string banjo), Thomas Meares (trombone/horn arrangements), Munyungo Jackson-Shekere (cymbals/shaker/triangle/chimes/bells/rain stick/tambourine/log drum/Surdo/congas/iron/Tumba/Tunisian bongos), Laird Considine (12-string acoustic guitar), El Rio Grande (river), Joel Guzman (accordion), Bill Kirchen (Fender Telecaster guitar), Colin Brooks (dobro) & Vincent Powell (tambourine).
Color photos courtesy of Hemifran. CD #1 = 55-minutes/CD #2 = 56-minutes @ https://www.hemifran.com/news/detail/u/1332/Hank%20Woji/Highways,%20Gamblers,%20Devils%20&%20Dreams/
Julian Talamantez Brolaski – It’s Okay Honey
California-based country artist Julian Talamantez Brolaski subscribes to music that’s a bit melancholy in waltz time, honky-tonk tints, rousing tunes designed with multiple moods mixed with traditional country flavor & modern innovation. Quite good at it. Brolaski has lots of poetic lyricism & crafts the music as songs of solace with emotional experiences that take a road toward healing.
The 12 songs of It’s Okay Honey (Dropped August 4–True West) were recorded in Philly & NJ. Co-produced by Mike ‘Slo-Mo’ Brenner (lap & pedal steel guitars) with Julian (lead & harmony vocals/acoustic guitar) who came a little late to country music. After hearing Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues,” at 19 & a move to NYC in 2006 Julian became immersed in its limited country music scene.
The first cut finds Julian in an upbeat pop-flavored country song “Racin’ the Train,” & “Buddy,” is complete with some yodeling & aching guitar. Good for dancing? Absolutely. It has humor, but the fiery Boaz Kim harmonica adds sugar to Julian’s musical coffee. The voice is perfectly suited to country & the backup musicians are engaging. “Sitting In the Space,” has a touch of Tex-Mex in its piquancy. Well played.
A little more involved in the slow poetic song “Gourd Flower,” which features exceptional Julian vocalizing within its old-fashioned C&W melodic saveur. Beautiful. It elevates country music to another level. Brolanski see-saws between innovative lyrical tunes to basic traditional realms. Done with ease & confidence. Some are more accessible to dedicated country ears. Though Julian’s voice isn’t sonorous or aggressive it has a propensity to maintain a competent tonality that’s expressive in this genre.
The touch of yodeling is never silly or novelty. It adds to the drama of the fine music. “Goin’ To Nashville,” is a simple song sung with all the humor of a classic Roger Miller tune. The superb “Covid-19 Blues,” I wouldn’t normally care for since there are too many tunes associated with this virus. But this little primitive blues with its under-the-surface Hank Williams-yodels, plods dark & bluesy with a chilling harmonica run — renders it quite cool. “Sometimes feel I’d rather shelter 6 feet under…” Clever stuff.
This is a fine & entertaining collection. No doubt. “Goodbye Brother,” is an exceptional example. The only suggestion: as a former publicist I suggest for a means of easy recognition a change of name would be recommended. Presently, it’s too long. Too many vowels too. It doesn’t sound country. Julian Talaman is good. Julian Mantez or La Mantez is also good & rural. Just a suggestion. It would help sell the music if the name had an easier country recall.
Highlights – “Racin’ the Train,” “Sitting In the Space,” “Gourd Flower,” “Just Like a Man,” “Goin’ To Nashville,” “Covid-19 Blues,” “Buddy,” It’s Okay Honey” & “Goodbye Brother.”
Musicians – ‘Handy’ Andy Waegel (banjo/pedal steel guitar/harmony vocals), David Langanella (electric guitar), Boaz Kim (harmonica/harmony vocals), Mark Schreiber (drums) & Michael Frank (bass).
Color image courtesy of Ryan Collerd. The 46-minute CD @ AppleMusic & https://juliantalamantezbrolaski.com/
CD & Digital Links can be bought at the artists’ respective websites. No photography will appear without a photographer’s credit or owning source.
All pictures, images & CD art displayed in any review were sent from publicists, the artists themselves their websites/Facebook, or PR reps. When available all photographer credits will be noted.
Robbie Robertson @ 80. From prostate cancer. The Canadian-born Robertson started his career in 1957. He worked with Ronnie Hawkins, Levon & the Hawks & had a long musical history that led to the formation of The Band. That partnership played with Bob Dylan. The Band recorded several classic roots-oriented LPs. One of their most famous sessions wasn’t even a scheduled recording session but one recorded in a basement in Woodstock, NY. It became a bootlegged album (“The Great White Wonder”) that became the legendary Basement Tapes. In 1976 they staged the wonderful concert filmed by Martin Scorsese known as The Last Waltz — to conclude their live concert tenure. Mr. Robertson died in L.A. (1943-2023). Color image courtesy of Don Dixon.
Roger Sprung @ 92 – (1930-2023) – NYC progressive bluegrass banjo virtuoso & mainstay in Greenwich Village, Sprung joined Erik Darling (The Rooftop Singers) & Bob Carey in 1953 to form The Folksay Trio. Over a career that spanned 6-decades, Sprung played with many major artists in top-tier venues like Lincoln Center & Carnegie Hall. B&W image courtesy of Tyler Sizemore.
Jerry Moss @ 88 – born Jerome Sheldon Moss, Jerry was the co-founder of A&M Records (with trumpeter Herb Alpert). Moss was a beloved record company executive who through his work was a member of the R&R Hall of Fame.
Color image courtesy of AP Photo/Rene Macura.
Grooves & Cuts – August 2023