ALBUMS OF THE MONTH:
Live At Lincoln Hall, by Joe Pug
Since arriving on the singer-songwriter scene in 2008, it didn’t take long for Joe Pug to establish himself as a rising star. This live album, recorded in Chicago last spring and comprising songs from his one full-length album and two eps, is a spectacular demonstration of his songwriting prowess.
Album opener “Nobody’s Man”, from his debut ep, is a personal favorite. “I’d rather be nobody’s man than somebody’s child,” sings Pug. It is a statement of independence but not without some regret at his loneliness. “There’s an ugliness growing up inside me, from where it has come I don’t know.”
“Lock the Door Christina,” from the In the Meantime ep, serves as both a love letter and a warning. “Lock the door, Christina, I’m standing on your porch tonight,” he sings with a gentle sway.
An electric guitar joins Pug’s acoustic to give “Speak Plainly Diana” some extra punch. Not that it needs it as Pug’s lyrics pack plenty of punch already. To wit, “And when there’s too much to get rid of, and you get rid of me, speak plainly to me Diana, there’s nothing you must be.”
“Call It What You Will” finds Pug struggling with heartache. “I call today a disaster, she calls it December the 3rd,” he laments, “call it what you will, I’m heartbroken still, words are just words.”
Live At Lincoln Hall is a great introduction for those who haven’t heard him and a treat for those who already have. And with a new release shortly to follow, it is the perfect set-up for what could be Pug’s best year yet.
Audio Download: Joe Pug, “Call It What You Will”
Grand Hotel, by The Explorers Club
This talented sextet from Charleston, SC whip up a magical blend of three minute pop masterpieces. Each track is masterfully crafted, filled with spectacular musicianship and brilliant harmonies.
Lead single “Run Run Run” opens with some regal horns before giving way to a bouncy pop beat. A percussive march towards the chorus is rewarded with a blast of airy harmonies as the band sings, “I’ll run run run ‘til I get back to you, run run run, do what I have to do, run run run ‘til I get back in your arms again.”
“Anticipatin’” starts off with a guitar, piano and organ riff that recalls the opening of the Beatles “Get Back.” The opening quickly transforms into a classic pop melody that leads to a falsetto-led chorus. Throw in some tasty guitar riffs and you’ve got a feel-good classic.
Did I mention harmonies? “Go For You” brings them in full force. The song’s already head-bobbing and harmony-laden chorus reaches even higher when the horns join the fray. The fun continues with “I’ve Been Waiting,” which matches percussion and taut guitars with honeyed harmonies.
Album closer “Open the Door” starts with a bit of flamenco guitar before launching into an emotional ballad that builds towards a symphonic conclusion. This is the kind of music that makes Brian Wilson smile.
Audio Stream: The Explorers Club, “Run Run Run”
Abaddon Blues b/w All the Good You Lose (demo), Kasey Anderson and the Honkies
Kasey Anderson and the Honkies rocked out on 2011’s Twangville fave Heart of a Dog. But last year is so last year. A new year is upon us now and Anderson and crew have hatched plans for a new album.
Here are two tracks recorded for the album to be known as Let the Bloody Moon Rise. One is a bruising blues number with the Honkies; the other is an Anderson demo recording of a brilliant ballad.
Gloryland, Kevin Gordon (from the self-released Gloryland)
Gordon is Louisiana’s answer to James McMurtry, spinning tales of weathered characters that come across as part song, part short-story. Check out the bluesy, dark and edgy title track.
Audio Download: Kevin Gordon, “Gloryland”
Bandit of Love, Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents (from the DeeVeeUs Records single Bandit of Love b/w That Moon Was Low)
For years Boston musician Jenny D’Angora has played with various punk and rock bands. Now she’s stepping out with a new outfit that pays homage to the 1960’s girl groups and their shiny pop sound. It’s retro with all the trimmings, what’s not to like?
Audio Download: Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents, “Bandit of Love”
Caught Me Thinking, Bahamas (from the Universal Republic release Barchords)
Toronto-based singer-songwriter-guitarist Afie Jurvanen, who records as Bahamas, reminds me of Harry Nilsson. His simple and airy arrangements stand in contrast to the often dark side of his lyrics. He actually pulls off a slight Caribbean feel with this track as he sings, “Back when we started, before we parted, I would wonder what would make her stay; what was I thinkin’, as if my drinkin’ was the only thing that drove her away.”
Audio Stream: Bahamas, “Caught Me Thinking”
Audio Download: Martin Sexton, “One Voice Together”
A Good Feelin’ to Know, Tom Gillam (from the Great Tone Records release Rustic Beauty)
Austin by way of Philly singer-songwriter Gillam takes on the free-wheelin’ Poco classic. It is a great cover selection as it fits comfortably along side Gillam’s originals. He and his band have a relaxed feel that just makes the music fun.
Audio Download: Tom Gillam, “A Good Feelin’ to Know”
Aim For the Heart, Ruthie Foster (from the Blue Corn Music Release Let It Burn)
“When in Rome,” the old saying goes. Foster took it to heart, figuratively if not literary, with her latest release. The album came to life in New Orleans, where it was infused with the spirit of local musicians including the Funky Meters rhythm section of bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Russell Batiste. While most of the album is covers ranging from the Band’s “It Makes No Difference” to Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” Foster includes a couple of originals including this soulful track.
Audio Download: Ruthie Foster, “Aim For the Heart”
Honolulu Blues, Craig Finn (from the Vagrant Records release Clear Heart, Full Eyes)
At this point there should be little doubt that Finn is one of rock’s most literate lyricists. He puts the point on that exclamation with his debut solo release. Finn leaves the rock and roll musical bravado of the Hold Steady behind and proceeds with more subdued arrangements that shine an even brighter light on his lyrics.
We’re all good, we’re all bad
We’re euphoric and we’re sad
We roll the rock away and check the tomb
Audio Stream: Craig Finn, “Honolulu Blues”
Runaway, Imperial Teen (from the Merge Records release Feel the Sound)
The winter snow may be falling as I type this but the shimmery sounds of Imperial Teen are transporting my spirit to a summery place. The arrival of the band’s latest release, filled with upbeat melodies and bright harmonies, is a sure sign that summer will soon be upon us, right? If not, you’ll find me cranking this one by the fireplace.
Audio Download: Imperial Teen, “Runaway”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.