ALBUMS OF THE SEASON:
Midnight Souvenirs, by Peter Wolf
Graceful is the first word that jumps to mind upon hearing Peter Wolf’s latest. That and “what the hell took you so long.” It has been eight years since his last solo album, and Wolf makes up for lost time with an impressive song collection. Although the album is clearly rooted in R&B, Wolf weaves in a broad array of musical styles. Merle Haggard joins Wolf for the touching country ballad “It’s Too Late For Me” while “Thick As Thieves” finds the singer mining some deep country blues. Album opener “Tragedy” finds Wolf facing off with Shelby Lynne. “Now you can hit me with the wrecking ball, throw me down the stairs and watch me fall, but if you ever take your love from me now that would be the tragedy.” My personal favorite is “I Don’t Wanna Know,” a rousing acoustic rocker that has a timeless quality. Elsewhere you get Wolf letting loose with Allen Toussaint’s “Everything I Do (Gonna Be Funky)” and his moving tribute to the late Willy DeVille, “The Night Comes Down.” From start to finish, each track is imbued with a charm and grace reflective of a personality as electric as it is eclectic. A tip of my fedora to you, Peter.
Audio Stream: Peter Wolf (with Shelby Lynne), “Tragedy”
The Open Road, by John Hiatt
John Hiatt’s latest brims with the relaxed feel of an artist clearly enjoying himself. Look no further than “Haulin’,” an infectious tale of a man racing back to his lover. A bouncy back-beat is the perfect contrast to the gruffness of Hiatt’s voice. Much of the album has a heavy blues influence, such as the partially-spoken “My Baby” or the burning “Like a Freight Train.” Album stand-out “What Kind of Man” rumbles with a hearty swagger as Hiatt proclaims, “I cheated on love, I cheated on my taxes.” Also noteworthy is the album opener “The Open Road” which proves that, even after 40 years in the music business, Hiatt still has some rock left in him. (See an exclusive Twangville live John Hiatt performance here.)
Audio Download: John Hiatt, “The Open Road”
Livin’ the Life, Martin Sexton (from the Kitchen Table Records release Sugarcoating)
Sexton has a voice that is the envy of many an artist. Silky smooth and soulful, he glides across a melody. Although his roots are in acoustic folk, his musical palate has broadened over the years. This particular track mixes acoustic pop with a funky Stevie Wonder vibe.
Audio Download: Martin Sexton, “Livin’ the Life”
Wide River to Cross, Carrie Rodriguez (from the Ninth Street Opus release Love and Circumstance)
Rodriguez pays tribute to some of her favorite songwriters on her latest release. And it appears that Carrie and I have something in common – an admiration for the songs of Buddy and Julie Miller. Rodriguez maintains the song’s determination, albeit with a slightly faster tempo and stronger percussion than the Miller’s original version. (See Shawn’s take on Carrie Rodriguez’s latest release here.)
Take It Away, Death On Two Wheels (from The Ghost Umbrella Records release Again for the First Time)
Lead singer Trae Vedder has a voice that sounds hardened by years spent in whiskey and smoke-filled bars. The voice is the perfect match for this intense classic rock ballad that builds into a furious guitar-driven jam.
Audio Download: Death on Two Wheels, “Take It Away”
I Keep Waiting, Hacienda (from the Alive Records release Big Red and Barbacoa)
Ya gotta love a band from land-locked San Antonio, Texas serving up a track that sounds like a long lost Beach Boys song. Brilliant.
The Dirty Glass, Dropkick Murphys (from the Dropkick Murphys release Live on Lansdowne)
These guys are a Boston institution, a band that loves the city about as much as the city loves them. Guest vocalist Liza Graves takes the band to task, “you bit off more than you could chew the first day you met me.” A celtic punk party if ever there was one.
When My Baby’s Beside Me, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
The passing of Alex Chilton was felt across the music industry. Among the best tribute recordings that I heard was Jason Isbell’s rocking take on this Big Star classic. Alex, you’ll be greatly missed.
Happiness Has a Half-Life, Palmdale (from the Oglio Records release Get Wasted)
When former Letters to Cleo singer Kay Hanley got together with musician/producer Linus of Hollywood to record some songs, there was little doubt that the result would be sugary power pop bliss. “Back when I was young full of piss and bubblegum, couldn’t wait for June to get here. No there’s no more books but I got the dirty looks as I medicate myself with cheap beer.”
The Getaway, Athlete (from the Original Sin release Black Swan)
The London quartet can’t be accused of holding back the emotions on this earnest alternative rock song. It hearkens back to the early 1990’s with a restrained opening that builds to a soaring chorus.
Stacey Loves Cocaine, The Chevelles (from the Wicked Cool Records release Barbarella Girl God)
The Chevelles are Australia’s answer to the Fountains of Wayne. The band comes on strong with tremendous pop melodies and harmonies, albeit with an insistent rock edge.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.