ALBUMS OF THE MONTH:
Stay Positive, by The Hold Steady
When Craig Finn preaches, “our psalms are sing-along songs,” in the opening track of their latest release, he might as well have revealed the band’s musical mission. Whereas previous albums have focused on the characters living in Finn’s imagination, this go-around spotlights the rock anthems anchored by guitarist Tad Kubler and pianist Franz Nicolay. “Sequestered in Memphis,” and “Stay Positive” are among the stand-outs, the former an up-beat summer song with great keyboard and guitar interplay, the latter has an angry tone driven by chugging guitar that stands at odds with its title. Album closer “Slapped Actress” brings the intensity to its height as Finn offers an apt description of the Hold Steady sound, “we’re the directors, our hands will hold steady… Man, we make our own movies.” This may not be the Hold Steady’s finest story-telling, but it is still pretty darn good.
Tell Him No, Kay Hanley (from the DeGuerre Records release Weaponize)
The former Letters to Cleo singer-songwriter lets loose with a ferocious rock track. An angry guitar gives the gives the song tremendous urgency and bite as Hanley declares, “If you gotta tear it down just to raise it up, well you ain’t doing it right.”
What’s Your Problem, The Zutons (from the Deltasonic release You Can Do Anything)
Damn if this isn’t a feel good tune despite the aggrevated lyrical content. “What’s your problem, I don’t get what your problem is,” implores singer David McCabe as the band romps through the horn-laced and percussion heavy track. Special props for a break that recalls Slade’s “Run Runaway.”
Billie Holiday, Alex Woodard (from the forthcoming Adrenaline Records release Alex Woodard)
Woodard re-works an old favorite with a bit more twang. “Do you remember what we used to do? We used to Lay in bed all day wasting the day away with Sinatra and Billie Holiday; lay awake all day wasting Sundays, you and me and Billie Holiday.”
Audio Download: Alex Woodard, “Billie Holiday”
Man of Two Minds, The Trews (from the Bumstead release No Time for Later)
Canada’s Trews, historically known for intense rock and roll anthems, offer up a slightly more subdued or at least more varied release. This track begins with acoustic guitar and cello but the electric guitars chime in for the soaring chorus. It has just the right dramatic edge to be the perfect fit for a movie soundtrack.
Never Going Back, Rusty Truck (from the Rykodisc release Luck’s Changing Lanes)
Long known for his enchanting cover photographs for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Seliger proves himself a “two-sport” player as a singer-songwriter. His voice overflows with tenderness and Texas twang on this tender ballad.
Mother and Child Reunion, The Morning Benders (from the digital release The Bedroom Covers)
The band describes their recent covers collection as “some kids having a lot of fun playing some of their favorite songs ever.” Their sparse acoustic take on Paul Simon’s oft-overlooked gem is a treat, all the better for the airy vocals and harmonies. Download the full release here.
Audio Download: Mother and Child Reunion
[Source: The Morning Benders]
Ready To Go Home, The Sacred Shakers (from the Signature Sounds release The Sacred Shakers)
Like a trip in the way-back machine, the Sacred Shakers will transport you to the Appalachian hills of a by-gone era. This is roots music in the truest sense, rich in religious themes, played by a collective of New England talents. Eilen Jewell, modestly extending her reputation as a leading folk songstress, leads the crew on this Hank Williams classic.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
I’m an Adult Now, The Pursuit of Happiness
Rather than “from the archives,” this is more like “from the songs that you’d forgotten category. This track features the classic line “No more boy meets girl, boy loses girl, more like man tries to figure out what the hell went wrong.”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.