There’s a lesson to be learned across the eleven tracks that make up Galactic’s latest release. I can’t recall a record in recent memory that is so musically diverse yet sounds so cohesive. It is a testament to the New Orleans-based quintet’s immense musical talents that they can move seamlessly from a brass band rave-up to some old school soul, with blasts of funk and rock thrown in for good measure.
As they’ve done in the past, the group invited guest vocalists ranging from Mavis Staples to JJ Grey to Macy Gray to lend their voices to the effort. What makes the resulting performances particularly impressive is that the songs, although they were mostly written by the band, perfectly match each singer’s personality. In fact, their guests would be well-served to invite Galactic to work on their respective solo releases.
If you’re looking for a record packed with sway and groove, then this is the one for you.
Singer-songwriter Bern is a distinctive talent, equally adept at scathing social commentary as he is at absurdist folly. He combines both on the entertaining and folksy “Waffle House”, to wit “The red states got the Waffle House, the blue states don’t.”
He can also pitch it down the middle as he does on this fine tribute to a few of his musical inspirations. He professes that, despite his own musical wanderings through rock and roll, he always holds a special place for the greats. In a touching moment, he expresses his desire to pass this appreciation onto his young daughter.
As even now I got a young one of my own
And I wonder what’s the music she’ll hold inside her heart
The cartoon kids they all sing rock n roll
But I’ll make sure she hears Merle and Hank and Johnny
Buck Owens, Jimmy Rodgers and George Jones
There is something special about Jeffrey Foucault’s voice, both figurative and literal. His music is filled with grit and plenty of dark bluesy edges. Yet there is also something soothing about it, especially when he slows the tempo down and leans on his acoustic guitar. The result is a sound that is raw, emotional and, at times, hauntingly beautiful.
The Toronto-based singer-songwriter’s sophomore release is a whole heap of fun, filled with songs that recall an earlier age when country and pop were blended to perfection. Rose injects a healthy dose of her own charm and personality into the mix, whether singing a tearful ballad (“The Last Party”) or a sassy foot-tapper (“The Devil Borrowed My Boots”).
It certainly doesn’t hurt that she is ably backed on the album by the Mavericks, including guest vocals from album producer Raul Malo. That said, it is Rose’s voice and songs that shine the brightest.
Tracy Bonham is an emotional writer. Sure, she knows how to craft a good story (see “Oh, McKenzie Silver Water“). Her real talent emerges, however, when she lets sentiment lead the way. The standout tracks on Wax and Gold dig deep into the crevices of her character’s feelings, ruminating on their fears and desires. She brings together these raw and expressive lyrics with music that is refined and often restrained. The results are potent and moving. Here’s a fine example, the breathtaking ballad that closes the album.
Michael Rank is not one to rest on his laurels. Orrest period, apparently. The North Carolina-based singer-songwriter has released five albums over a 3.5 year span, each one as engaging as its predecessor.
Rank excels at creating music that is taut yet tranquil. Taut in their sense of purpose and meaning; tranquil in their gentle and relaxed arrangements. Most songs are built around intertwining acoustic guitars and fiddle accompaniment, with an occasional electric or pedal steel guitar flourish.
Rank’s voice, well-worn and with an expressive southern drawl, is an instrument unto itself and is the perfect vehicle for his well-crafted tales of heartbreak. On Horsehair Rank finds a marvelous vocal foil in Mount Moriah’s Heather McEntire, who adds her enchanting voice to many of the tracks. The Emmylou Harris to his Gram Parsons.
The Mighty Flood, Batture Boys
It has been ten years since Hurricane Katrina barreled through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The catastrophic storm and its aftermath will forever be remembered as a tragic moment in American History.
Longtime New Orleans musical fixtures Tommy Malone (the Subdudes) and Ray Ganucheau (The Continental Drifters) mark the anniversary with a rootsy reflection on the hurricane and the subsequent decade of ongoing recovery. “Blood is thicker than water,” they sing, honoring both the perseverance and defiant spirit of their fellow New Orleans residents.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.