ALBUM OF THE MONTH:
Lean Forward, by The Bottle Rockets
Now that summer has finally arrived, it’s a good time to pick out the summer albums. It starts with the latest from the pride of Festus, Missouri, The Bottle Rockets. Lead songwriter Brian Henneman is a pop songwriter masquerading as an alt-country musician. And summer is made for sunshine and pop songs. The quartet roar out of the gate with “The Long Way,” a furious rocker that has Henneman proclaiming, “the long way isn’t the wrong way, and a wrong turn isn’t the end, if it’s understood maybe something good is coming at you ‘round the bend.” What is surprising across the release is the soul and, dare I say, funky feel to several of the tracks. “Slip Away,” for example, features a touch of organ to give it a soulful hangin’ in the backyard feel. “Hard Times” and “Get On the Bus” move with a funky groove, the latter track morphing into a proper hoe-down by its end. Part of the albums charm is the presence of keyboards across many of the tracks. While there is never any doubt that the Bottle Rockets are a rock and roll band, the expanded instrumentation gives the album a refreshing quality. Kinda like the feel one gets opening a PBR on hot summer afternoon. (See Shawn’s take on Lean Forward here.)
Nobody From Nowhere, Daddy (from the Cedar Creek Records release Daddy for a Second Time)
Partners-in-crime Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack kick off their latest release with this simmering southern rock gem. The funky percussion and simmering organ set the tone, but it’s the tremendous guitar work from Kimbrough and Womack that give the song it’s subtle swagger. Sometimes the best notes of the guitar solo are the ones that aren’t played.
Take a Beating, Gina Villalobos (from the Face West Records release Days on their Side)
This is quintessential Villalobos, a love song dripping with humility and vulnerability. It’s hard to get past the raw emotion in her voice as she sings, “I want to take a beating with you, I don’t want to talk to someone new, I want to take a beating with you.” (See Kelly’s take on Days on their Side here.)
Audio Download: Gina Villalobos, “Take a Beating”
Animals, Ketch Harbour Wolves (from the self-released Dead Calm Horizon)
You can hear the restlessness of the ocean in this brooding track from Ontario, Canada. Singer Jonathan Tyrrell’s brooding vocals set the tone that is intensified by the layered arrangement of piano, organ and a distant-sounding guitar.
Neville, Jones Street Station (from the Smith Street Records release In Verses)
The band formerly known as the Jones Street Boys has changed more than their name. Their sophomore release has a more produced sound, but this song has the back-porch hoe-down quality that first attracted my attention.
Audio Download: Jones Street Station, “Neville”
Earthly Bodies, J. Tillman (from the Western Vinyl release Year in the Kingdom)
Although Seattle’s J. Tillman moonlights as the drummer for indie faves Fleet Foxes, he stands tallest as a solo artist. His voice quietly demands attention while the sparse yet methodical instrumentation underscores the fragility of his songs. Breathtaking.
Audio Download: J. Tillman, “Earthly Bodies”
I Can’t Get No Ride, Barrence Whitfield (from the Blood Red Vinyl & Discs release Raw, Raw, Rough!)
Boston rhythm-and-bluesman Barrence Whitfield has been impressing for years, proving as adept with the soulful ballads as he is with the bar-room rave-ups. When he lets loose with his soulful wail, as he does on this track, you’ll think that he has been possessed by the spirit of the great R&B artists from a bygone era. Get on the dance floor or get out of the way!
You’re So Vain, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs (from the Shout Factory release Under the Covers, Vol. 2)
The self-proclaimed “Sid ‘n’ Suzie” return with their takes on a number of 1970′s rock classics. Susanna Hoffs sounds great singing the Carly Simon classic but its Sweet’s brusque guitar that sets this version apart from the original. Question, though. If Volume Three takes on the 1980s, will they be covering their own songs?
Red Light Love, Those Darlins (from the Thirty Tigers release Those Darlins)
Mix the Ramones with the Go-Gos and screen through a Johnny Cash filter and you’ll end up with something like Those Darlins. And that’s not a bad thing.
Temporary, Slaid Cleaves (from the Music Road release Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away)
This album impresses me more and more with each subsequent listen. At first it was the fragility of Cleaves voice and the simple arrangements, now it’s the eloquence of his lyrics. “All you see, every joy and every sting, Temporary, as the blooming of the rose in spring.” ((See Todd’s take on Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away here.)
Sister Golden Hair, Scott Warren (from the Jangular Music release Quick Fix Bandage)
Yes, this is a cover of the America classic. Warren transforms the song into a somber ballad set against acoustic guitar and strings. I like it better than the original. (See Kelly’s take on Quick Fix Bandage here and download a two-song sampler on Warren’s web site — scroll down to the bottom on the left.)
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.