ALBUMS OF THE MONTH:
Wings, by Will Kimbrough
Nashville’s Will Kimbrough has long been a musical journeyman, lending his [immense] talents to artists ranging from Jimmy Buffett to Rodney Crowell. Yet, despite this heavy schedule, he still finds time to create some striking music of his own. Wings, his latest release, has a gentle and relaxed feel to it. The songs speak of a man content with his life and devoted to his family.
Album opener “Three Angels” is a tender tribute to his family, “Now I know the truth is I’m a lucky man indeed, everybody has an angel I’ve got three.” A horn section gives “Open to Love” a pleasant R&B feel punctuated by some of Kimbrough’s fine acoustic guitar-picking. The title track, co-written with Jimmy Buffett (and also appearing on Buffett’s most recent release), finds an optimistic Kimbrough encouraging “If you’re ever gonna fly without fear, you’re gonna have to learn to love the atmosphere, you’ve gotta learn to use those wings that you can’t see.”
“Big Big Love” has a soothing swagger and a warmth reflective of its title. Lyrically the song finds Kimbrough balancing self-reflection and yearning, “tried to be the big man with a knuckle and a tin can, with the knowledge and a big plan, holding onto Wonderland. I held so tight, I lost you there; I looked so hard, I couldn’t see; I let it go and fell alone, and it was there in front of me.” It is a song and lyric that speaks of Kimbrough’s musical journey.
Audio Download: Will Kimbrough, “Big Big Love”
Messenger, by Joe Pug
It is hard to believe that Pug is a relatively young performer with only two self-released EPs to his credit. The maturity of his songs and performance conveys a confidence and intelligence of a musician twice his age. Messenger, Pug’s debut full-length, affirms the arrival of a tremendous new talent.
“Not So Sure” is arresting, as Pug sings of a many reflecting on how his life’s choice have led him to his current state. “Breathing was so easy then I wish that it still were,” he sings, “Now as the breeze just makes me colder, I know these days I’m not so sure.”
Pug doesn’t shy from social issues, tackling the recent war in “Bury Me Far (From My Uniform).” Singing in the voice of a fallen soldier, Pug declares, “Won’t you bury me far from my uniform, so God might remember my face.”
“How Good You Are” finds Pug exploring the contrast between hope and despair. “Everything that you were meant for, Everything that you were born to do, does not need you to do it, someone else was born to do it too,” he sings bleakly. Not content with that outlook, however, he seeks out a silver lining. “If you shut up with what you’ve chosen, you’ll hear something choosing you,” he declares. It is the perfect sentiment for an artist who has let his music be his guide. (See Eli’s review here.)
Audio Download: Joe Pug, “The Sharpest Crown”
Snowgun, Graham Parker (from the Bloodshot Records release Imaginary Television)
People deal with rejection in varying ways. After being approached to write two television theme songs, only to see them rejected, Parker has taken it upon himself to write an album’s worth of theme songs for imaginary television show. And I gotta tell ya, the songs are mighty fine. This song, the tale of a fictional Japanese/American ski bum has the perfect laid-back vibe for sitting around for a round of beers after a long day on the slopes. Check your local listings.
Audio Download: Graham Parker, “Snowgun”
Better Than This, Jason & the Scorchers (from the self-released Halcyon Times)
Jason & the Scorchers do more than blow the doors off, they reduce the building to a pile of ashes. Singer Jason Ringenberg and guitarist Warren E. Hodges engage in an impressive battle of wills, each determined to whip the song into a manic intensity. “It gets good but it don’t get better than this.” Sounds about right.
Audio Download: Jason & the Scorchers, “Better Than This”
Love Makes You Do Stupid Things, Christine Ohlman (from the HMG Records release The Deep End)
The NYC-based singer with the beehive hairdo almost as big as her voice teams up with guitarist-producer (and former Del-Lord) Eric Ambel for this classic blues-based rock rumble.
Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Again), Harlem Parlour Music Club (from the Harlem Parlour Records release Salt of the Earth)
It takes some mighty big cahones for an acoustic band to cover Sly and the Family Stone. Hats off to this NYC music collective for keeping the groove strong with a heavy dose of fiddle and banjo. Extra credit for a great band name, as well.
Leavin’ Kind, Kasey Anderson (from the Red River Records release Nowhere Nights)
The combination of Anderson’s whispered vocals, dense yet sparse arrangements and vivid songwriting give his music a theatrical quality. “You came rushing through the doorway, Like the winter, like a drug, Like some secret I’d forgotten, A memory lingering in my blood,” on this bleak tale of a rocky relationship. See Eli’s review here.
Audio Download: Kasey Anderson, “Leavin’ Kind”
Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners, Jason & the Scorchers (from the self-released Halcyon Times)
“Loves the Stones, hates the Doors. Thinks the Beatles sing for girls. He’s a moonshine guy in a 6-pack world.”
Prove It All Night, Doop & Inside Outlaws (from the self-released Everett Belcher)
While they don’t necessarily break new ground, the Detroit-based Outlaws ‘s take on the Springsteen classic is a real treat. Clarence’s sax solo is transformed into a lap steel guitar solo, giving the version a proper country feel.
Janglin, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (from the Vagrant Records release Up From Below)
Sharpe and crew hearken back to the pop side of the psychedelic 1960’s with a song heavy on sunshine melodies and group chorus vocals. We Want to feel ya!, We don’t mean to kill ya!, We come back to Heal ya – Janglin soul.”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.